Growing relationships between Scotland and India

This week I’ve been in India, taking part in the country’s flagship conference for business process outsourcing (BPO) and legal process outsourcing (LPO) firms – NASSCOM BPM.

The event provided a great platform to further our aim of positioning Scotland as the preferred location for businesses in the BPO and LPO industry.

The financial and business services sector is worth around £17 billion to Scotland’s economy every year. It’s a major contributor to our inward investment figures and accounts for around £3.2 billion in annual export activity.

It’s a rapidly-growing sector – legal process outsourcing, for example, is currently worth around £600 million worldwide and growing at around 30% a year.

Having a presence at events like NASSCOM is vital if we’re to make sure Scotland continues to claim its share of this incredibly lucrative market.

NASSCOM 2013 India and Scotland

In the past week I’ve met with representatives from some of India’s top BPO and LPO companies, including existing investors Hinduja Global Solutions and NewGalexy.

Those I haven’t met in person we’ve reached in other ways – through Scottish experts presenting panel discussions at the conference and through interviews with key Indian media outlets.

As a result, Scotland has been presented to some of the most important existing and potential business contacts in India with our key messages delivered directly to a vital target audience.

Scotland is an ideal partner country for India. We offer excellent opportunities in key sectors where India‘s rapid development and economic growth has led to increasing demand – education, for example, and healthcare.

We will also watch with great interest as India’s banking and insurance sectors continue to expand.

Scotland already has a strong relationship with some of the largest companies in India, and inward investment from those companies now supports around 5,000 jobs.

I don’t expect to return to Scotland and immediately see an upsurge in activity with Indian financial and legal services firms, but we have at the very least planted some more strategic seeds.

And from those I’m sure we’ll see future relationships start to grow.

Further reading:

Scotland at the heart of the global oil and gas industry

I’m at Offshore Europe in Aberdeen this week, one of the world’s leading oil and gas shows.

With almost 50,000 delegates from over 90 countries it’s an opportunity for new connections to be made, new business to be done, and to showcase Scotland’s oil and gas industry on the global stage.

And, despite the world-wide recession, oil and gas is still Scotland’s 40 year old success story.

We’re exporting a record amount of products and services linked to oil and gas, with total supply chain sales worth in excess of £17 billion last year – with direct international sales accounting for almost half that figure.

oil and gas

The industry currently supports 200,000 jobs in Scotland with our supply chain of around 2000 companies tapping into opportunities both in the North Sea and across the globe.

To make sure we build on this success, last year we launched an industry led Oil & Gas Strategy, which aims to secure long term growth, increase supply chain sales to £30 billion by 2020 and increase recovery levels.

The key to achieving this vision includes strengthening our domestic supply chain, increasing export sales, identifying innovation priorities and promoting new opportunities for supply chain companies in the global marketplace.

We know we have some real competitive advantages which will help achieve these goals.

Advantages like our subsea sector expertise – where Scotland accounts for almost 40% of the global subsea expenditure.

This has been built up over the past four decades as the industry moved into deeper waters to access areas once thought too remote and difficult to reach.

As a result our expertise and knowledge is in demand across the world, and Scotland has become a significant global hub for development in this area.

We believe that the global oil and gas sector stands to benefit from the experience and knowledge that Scotland has built up over the past four decades.

Supporting Scotland’s oil and gas industry

At Scottish Enterprise we support key sectors, like oil and gas, and help businesses that operate within them to realise their growth ambitions.

As part of this we are developing new international partnerships that will help to continue the sector’s growth in overseas markets. Through our international arm, Scottish Development International, we are expanding our presence in key global markets.

At Offshore Europe we’ve organised specific events and invited inward delegations around a number of these markets, including West Africa, Australia, China, Brazil, Holland, Asia and the Middle East.

This will give Scottish companies direct access to information on how they take advantage of opportunities in these geographies.

We’ll also be showcasing the success of over 45 companies based in Scotland in winning business in these and other markets.

The companies will have the opportunity to meet members of our international GlobalScot network, which promotes Scottish businesses at home and abroad, at a special networking event.

We’re also delighted that both Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond and Energy Minister Fergus Ewing will be at the event, demonstrating the importance placed on the industry at the highest level.

That’s because the opportunities for Scotland in the oil and gas sector remain considerable, with a real sense of optimism for the future at a global level.

I’d like to welcome the many visitors from throughout the world to Aberdeen this week, and ask them to visit the Scottish Pavilion to find out more about what Scotland has to offer.

Paradise, provenance and the Western Isles

Western Isles beach

Neil Francis

What a summer! But like so many things in our family it started off with a complaint – apparently we were the only family in Jordanhill not going to Florida or some other far-off paradise – instead we went to the Western Isles but what a paradise.

Its attributes have recently been exquisitely illustrated in the series – Islands on the Edge. The series was produced by Maramedia – TV and Film Production based in Creative Clyde – a recent inward investment success joining Glasgow’s growing cluster of creative and digital media companies.

Craft beer and fashion

The summer for me got off to a fantastic start taking in dinner with Russian drinks buyers hosted at the Edinburgh headquarters of Innis and Gunn. We’ve been working with them on their international ambitions for some time.  This came as no surprise to me having now tried their products and gained an insight to their brand values – something very unique – check out Innis & Gunn – The Story.

Always thinking ahead and a must during our annual sojourn to the islands is a visit to Rarebird to stock up on Christmas presents. Rarebird specializes in handbags and accessories manufactured using Harris Tweed – an increasing international brand that is used to showcase much of Scotland’s fashion and textiles industry.

The company exports almost all its production mainly to Japan and Europe and you can just imagine the potential. However, after speaking to one of the owners, the dilemmas of growth, ambition and staying true to the essence of the business are striking.

Western Isles cottage

Technology and tourism

We also attended the South Harris show and renewed many acquaintances we have built up over the years through the friendly, but competitive, range of races, baking and craft and dog contests. One such family are the owners of the Borve Estate and, until recently, owners of Equateq pharmaceutical company based at Callanish. It was recently purchased by BASF for its leading omega 3 fatty acid technology. They’ve now turned their attention to the tourism industry and created two fabulous cottages chiselled out of the Harris granite. The Rock House and Broch deliver standards that would not look out of place at any of the world top tourism destinations.

International horizons

We also spent a view hours speeding around seas off the west coast of Lewis experiencing the wonders of golden eagles and their new born chicks, a vast colony of seals basking in the sun, and some stunning sea-stacks. To finish it off in style we bought some glorious hand-dived scallops saving them from the clutches of London’s Billingsgate fish market.

Western Isles pond

I never thought before that a holiday at home would be so international and full of wonderful surprises – a stunning example of an international Scotland in so many guises and one in which we, along with colleagues across Scottish Enterprise and the Highlands & Islands Enterprise, are doing so much to nurture, encourage and support.

For me there is something very tangible that connects all of these together and that is the notion of premium and provenance. This reminds of the Scots-born economist John Kay and his work on distinctive competencies and how these are the bedrock of sustainable competitiveness.

These distinctive competencies must be difficult or impossible to replicate – surely this applies to the premium and provenance qualities attached to the products, and assets that were so visible and plentiful on our summer holidays.

I hope your own holidays were as enjoyable as ours – and there hasn’t even been a whimper about Florida since we got back!


Innovate for export success

Want to know the secret to successful exporting? Innovate.

We live in a time where competition is intensifying and globalisation is radically reshaping Scotland’s business environment.

So it’s not surprising that companies with a track record of innovation are more likely to export successfully and generate growth from exporting.

When developing new products or services, the needs of customers or new market opportunities should be at the core of the development activity.

But do companies fully factor in the international perspective of the customer or market?

Do they create global products?

Or do they create products for the Scottish market and then try and sell them internationally?

scotland's export success

We all know how important it is to gain wider customer or market intelligence early on and to feed it into the development process: I would like to consider some different approaches in creating global products.

Innovators and exporters are increasingly embracing ‘open innovation’ approaches to beat the competition, using external ideas (from customers and suppliers) as well as internal ideas (from staff).

These collaborations give access to additional resources, skills, technologies and markets through business-to-business partnerships, supply chain relationships and by harnessing established distribution channels.

Open innovation is moving from ‘nice-to-have’ to ‘must-have’ as companies see it as an integral part of their management practices and export strategy.

For successful businesses the ability to innovate is increasingly seen as a key asset for competing in international markets.

Innovation, knowledge transfer and internationalisation are inextricably linked.

SDI office locations worldwide

Assessing market intelligence is critical when it comes to international trade.

The key questions are:

  • Is there a market?
  • What size is it and is it growing?
  • How competitive is the space?
  • Do we have a compelling offering?

The insight needed to tackle these questions comes from the country you’re trying to build relationships with.

And that’s where Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Development International can help.

With over 20 offices around the world, our in-field staff can help find the answers that will lead to successful exporting.

Scotland’s continuing inward investment success

Securing a 50 percent increase in inward investment projects in any year is a fantastic achievement.

Doing it against a backdrop of global economic uncertainty and a fiercely competitive international marketplace is something that all of Team Scotland should be incredibly proud of.

Scotland was the top performing region in the UK outside of London for inward investment in 2012…

Today’s Ernst & Young report shows that Scotland was the top performing region in the UK outside of London for inward investment in 2012.

The fact that the number of foreign direct investment (FDI) projects to the UK as a whole increased by just 3 percent puts Scotland’s performance in an even more impressive light.

The report also highlighted that Scotland secured 11 percent of all FDI projects to the UK, up from 7.5 percent in 2011, and 18 percent of all research and development projects – widely regarded as the most valuable type of investment.

Anne McColl, chief executive, Scottish Development International

Anne McColl, Chief Executive of Scottish Development International

Scotland has a strong track record in attracting inward investment over the past decade.

What is that makes Scotland so attractive to investors?

I believe there are a number of factors.

The first is Scotland’s inherent strength in key sectors such as energy, financial services, technology and engineering and life sciences. Together with our world class universities and research institutes, these strengths give Scotland some unique competitive advantages.

The second is the ease of doing business here – Scotland offers companies a highly competitive business environment and strong networks of local companies that can act as important supply chains for these investors.

And finally, investors tell us time after time that the deciding factor for their investment in Scotland is the quality and integrated nature of support that is available to them from the public sector.

While grants and financial assistance are one part of this, it is the level of aftercare and support available which investors tell us they find most valuable.

Our teams are fully integrated with Scottish Enterprise and Highlands & Islands Enterprise and work closely with other Team Scotland partners.

That means we can work with investors to really understand their business and provide them with strategic advice, support and assistance to help them expand further in Scotland.

The fact that almost half of all FDI projects to Scotland included within the Ernst & Young report were follow on investment from investors already based here is testament to this. I believe that is what sets us apart from other UK regions.

There is no room for complacency and we need to step up our efforts to attract investment from new and emerging economies…

Of course, the report also highlights that there is no room for complacency and we need to step up our efforts to attract investment from new and emerging economies such as India and China.

Given the increasing competitive marketplace for inward investment, this is something we’re acutely aware of and we continue to increase our resources in new and emerging markets so we can respond to global opportunities.

This has seen us open six new offices in key locations over the past 12 months – including Hyderabad, Calgary, Shenzhen and Rio de Janeiro – and we’ll soon be establishing a presence in West Africa. This will ensure that we continue to punch above our weight in attracting new jobs and investment for Scotland as well as increasing trade opportunities in these important markets.

Already we’re beginning to see the positive impact from this with our own figures showing investment from Asia has doubled over the past year and I’m confident that we’ll be able to maintain this trend long into the future.

Raising the bar from G&T to Asian Dog

It was always Dog’s ambition to grow beyond our geographic boundaries, and when we started the business over 12 years ago, it was perhaps not the top priority but at least a point on the horizon.

Gerry McCusker, MD, Dog Digital

Gerry McCusker, MD, Dog Digital

Traditionally the communications industry has been fairly parochial in nature. Many of the older agencies concentrate on the domestic market in Scotland, and did not venture across the border. Over the last few years that has changed with the advent of digital communications and, possibly, better access to the foreign market.

Dog has had various pieces of success, winning business in Toronto, Geneva and London, and also working with Scottish businesses exporting to a foreign market.

However around two and a half years ago, after the current team had just bought out one of the former directors and shareholders, we embarked on a strategy workshop through Scottish Enterprise (SE) and Scottish Development International (SDI). This was the catalyst that allowed the team to begin to work out how we could realise our international ambitions.

It’s the classic situation where we were so concerned with the day to day running of the business that we couldn’t work on the strategy and overall direction.

Our initial steps were to build resilience into our organisation and allow headroom to allow us to implement our plans.

While this was happening opportunities began appearing, and one of these was an opportunity to work for a client in Singapore.

Working again with SE and SDI, we entered a further series of workshops that allowed us to build on our initial plans incorporating this opportunity.

Our springboard to Asian markets

Within six months we found ourselves searching for offices in Singapore – immediately other opportunities opened up. One of our other key clients in Edinburgh and London had a huge Asian presence based out of Singapore and began to enter discussions with us about working together.


Dog Digital has offices in Glasgow, London and Singapore

A key decision that is always difficult was the hiring of the team there.  Singapore is known as ‘Asia for beginners’. English is the business language and the red tape to set up a company is relatively straightforward. However it is a 14 hour flight away with a vast difference in culture and 7 hour time difference. Those three factors can never be underestimated.

People often talked to me of the ‘Gin & Tonic’ effect. This is where company leaders often venture out on trade trips to foreign markets but as soon as the have a G&T on the flight home it all seems a bit too difficult. It is.

Our opinion was to create a team that that was the Asian version of Dog, as opposed to Dog in Asia. Therefore we recruited local staff, and directors. This has also been supported by significant time in the market from key people in the business.

dog-officeThere is no way to get a better understanding other than physically be there and experience it for yourself. SE and SDI have been fantastic in offering support for trips and help in hiring staff, however this is just the tip of the iceberg in the help they’ve given us, which has been a huge investment of their time, resource and mind space.

Our Asian business has been established for over a year now, and each day a new challenge will come to the fore. Ensuring staff from each location appreciate the challenge the others face is ongoing, and the cultural differences are forever evident.

Imagine our Glasgow team meeting our Singapore team for a Christmas night out in Glasgow on a rainy cold December night and you begin to realise the work involved to make a global team.

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Building a global company through language and culture

Christian Arno, Managing Director, Lingo 24

Christian Arno, MD, Lingo 24

When I first set up a translation company in a spare room in Aberdeenshire, running a global business seemed a far-off dream. The idea was to use online marketing to keep costs low, with translators based around the world providing a 24-hour service. But it was slow going at first. We made our fair share of mistakes, such as a poorly designed website and not targeting our advertising effectively.

But, with an enthusiastic, talented, and growing team, Lingo24 has managed to exceed my expectations. We’ve now got hubs on four continents, and work with major international clients such as World Bank, American Express, Orange, and Save the Children, as well as hundreds of small and medium-sized companies.

As a multilingual company, exporting has always been a key part of our strategy. We’ve recently set up offices in the Philippines and Germany, and a growing proportion of our business comes from overseas.

We’re passionate about helping Scottish businesses branch out and take advantage of some of the exciting emerging markets around the world. Languages really do open up a world of opportunities, and a little local knowledge is often the key to success.

Just a few years ago, becoming a global business was out of reach for many smaller companies due to the high costs. But the rapid growth of the internet has changed this. Now it’s relatively easy and affordable for companies to become “micro-multinationals” by setting up international websites and selling their products and services overseas.

We’ve almost completed a project to translate and localise Lingo24’s website for more than 50 countries. We recently launched sites aimed at high-growth South-East Asian markets including Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan. These are an effective way of giving a global company a local feel – building trust and tailoring our services to each market.

I’d advice business owners to consider the opportunities on the foreign language internet. It’s easy to think everyone speaks English online – but that’s far from the case. Arabic, Russian, and Portuguese have all seen huge growth in user numbers in recent years, while Chinese is soon expected to overtake English as the most widely spoken online language. But there’s still much less content in these languages, giving companies a competitive edge.

There’s also plenty of evidence that most consumers prefer to browse and shop using their mother tongue. In fact, a recent study by the Common Sense Advisory found that customers were four times more likely to make a purchase if they had information in their own language.

When we started out, our main work centred on European languages. But now, with the growing economies in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, we’re seeing rising demand for translation into Arabic, Spanish, Chinese and other Asian languages.

There are plenty of challenges to building a global company. With staff based in different countries and time zones, I think it’s still very important to build a close, supportive culture. We’ve worked hard to make sure we have effective communication channels, as well as giving people the chance to travel and develop their careers. On a personal level, I find it fascinating working with talented people from all over the globe.

Along the way, we’ve had invaluable assistance from Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Development International, from advice on marketing to organising networking events. Their GlobalScot Network helped us successfully launch in the United States – and even led to us winning our first million-dollar contract with a major US technology company.

Whether you’re just thinking about exporting or want to move to the next level, I’d definitely recommend taking advantage of the support and advice on offer. Scotland has always been an outward-looking nation, and there’s a huge wealth of opportunities out there.

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