Spreading the Word About India in the American Southwest

April 21, 2011

Judy Reinke is the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service’s Senior Commercial Officer in India.

Hi, it’s me again, Judy Reinke from the Commercial Service (CS) office in New Delhi, and I’m finally on the ground in the U.S. after a very long flight.  It’s great to be home!  After 15 hours on a plane, it was a joy to stretch my legs and see a gorgeous sunrise in Newark, New Jersey, but my trip wasn’t done yet.  Another 5 hours later, and I was in the beautiful city of Phoenix, Arizona, the first stop on a two-week ”outreach” trip designed to help U.S. companies learn about the India market and encourage more U.S. firms to export.  But there was no time for sleep, since the day had just begun in Arizona.

Arizona State University's Skysong Center

Arizona State University’s Skysong Center

Stopping by the offices of the Phoenix U.S. Export Assistance Center located at the Arizona State University’s distinctive SkySong Center, I had the chance to discuss export opportunities with a booming franchise business that has a significant overseas presence, but which has not yet entered India.  The business director is a savvy fellow who knows the market conditions he needs to succeed, and he understands that India still presents some big challenges in the retail sector.  India’s retail sector consists largely of small mom-and-pop retailers stores, and the distribution channels are not fully developed; however, this franchiser wants to keep a close eye on pending reforms in this sector and will work with my office to jump in when the timing is right.  In fact, he’s been successful in finding master franchisers in other markets with the help of the Commercial Service, and I’m confident my office can help him in the same way.  I also chatted with an architectural services firm ready to explore exporting for the first time.  Services exports are a major U.S. competitive strength, and I see good opportunities for architecture and design firms in India, where a $1 trillion is expected to be invested in infrastructure over the next 5 years. One of the directors of the company is quite knowledgeable about India, and I can see how India might well be a place where this well-established, medium-sized firm could get started as a service exporter.  Nonetheless, during the course of our conversation, which included my colleague from the Arizona USEAC, Anna Flaaten, we discussed other options closer to home, like Canada or Central America, which could provide an excellent platform to start exporting.  Anna provides great counseling insights – any U.S. company unsure about how (or where) to start exporting should seek out  the advice of people like Anna and other Trade Specialists at the 100 or so USEACs across America.

With only 1% of U.S. companies currently exporting and, of those, 58% only exporting to one market (likely Canada or Mexico, since they’re so close), Anna and her colleagues have a lot of work on their hands reaching out to lots of businesses which really should give exporting a try.  During my short two week “road show”, I hope I can give my U.S.-based colleagues a hand spreading the word about exporting, since it presents such a great opportunity to keep American strong.  If your firm isn’t an exporter, I hope you will become one.  By exporting a product to a new market, your company learns what your global competitors are up to in their home markets; you get great feedback from foreign customers on how your product stacks up or could be modified to gain more traction in their market; and you become better able to compete back home as you use this feedback to improve and enhance your product for the future.

This has been a long day for me.  I’ll sign off now, since tomorrow is another big day here in Phoenix for counseling U.S. firms about India.  And, who knows… maybe I’ll be meeting with you!

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