As value chains are disrupted in a pandemic-stricken world, businesses must be agile and able to diversify their markets – even more so than before. To become or remain competitive, businesses across the globe need to understand market opportunities (and tap into them) as well as market risks (and how to mitigate them). However, complex trading rules and regulations make this information hard to access and navigate, particularly for smaller businesses (MSMEs) in the global South. Many Southern MSMEs miss investment and cooperation opportunities as a result.
One of the most efficient ways of directing support to businesses is via Business Support Organisations (BSOs), since businesses of all shapes and sizes look to their relevant BSOs for direction, advice and support.
SITA has consistently supported BSOs in both India and East Africa since its inception in 2015. Building on past successes and existing relationships, SITA has taken action to equip BSOs with the market insights they need in order to support the businesses in their membership during and after the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. To do this, SITA called on ITC’s suite of online Market Analysis Tools and organized a virtual capacity building training customized specifically for Indian and African BSOs and their specific learning needs, sectors and products.
How can ITC’s Market Analysis Tools help BSOs?
The ITC online Market Analysis Tools suite covers the world’s largest databases on trade statistics, tariff data, and rules of origin related to free trade agreements. Accessible for anyone, there are also additional tools on export potential estimations, investment data and information on sustainability and quality standards. Experts from ITC ran training sessions to teach each BSO representative to get the most out of the tools, assess the markets relevant to them and explore new market opportunities.
Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) works to “help the state and entrepreneurs know about investment opportunities”. Mr. K Unnikrishnan, Director General, FIEO, participated in the trainings along with three of his colleagues. He explained that prior to last month’s training, FIEO had not been aware of online compiled information on the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows and outflows of a country. “Many times, we were searching in the dark to get adequate information. I find that the investment data introduced by ITC is a gold mine, which I am sure will help us in providing guidance to members of FIEO.”
Similarly, Mr. Vijaya Kumar C., Assistant Director, International Marketing Department, Council for Leather Exports of India (CLE) described becoming “more able to understand the basic about international trade flows” through the training. Mr. Kumar explained that this in turn has made him and his team more able to “spot untapped potential in a particular market”.
What did the training cover?
The training covered subjects ranging from export potential and identifying new opportunities, to market diversification and market requirements. Parts of the training were specifically geared to help BSOs recognize the importance of preferential trade agreements (PTAs) and associated rules of origin in supply chain management. Some sessions were sector-focused, relevant to the key sectors that the BSOs operate in, and the participants were able to ask questions, practice new skills and receive certification at the end.
Above all, BSOs came away able to identify the emerging opportunities, constraints and risks relevant to the specific businesses in their membership. They can use these market analysis skills and capacities to give relevant advice to their firms, enabling them to adapt to take advantage of emerging opportunities, dodge the risks, and come out the other side of the pandemic with resilience and sustainable business solutions.
The information and skills are also enriching for BSOs contributing to policy-making. Kenya is in the process of developing an integrated National Export Strategy to bridge the gaps in translating the export potential to export opportunities through sectoral and value chains and response to the market opportunities,” explained Ms. Heather Munyao, Investment Promotion Officer, Asia Desk, Kenya Investment Authority. The market analysis training has been “very insightful” to her “as a professional in the investment promotion field”: her new skills will help her to contribute to a high-impact National Export Strategy for Kenya.
The impressive results of the training
The training was interactive, leading to “vivid participation” and “thoroughly thought-out questions” from the BSOs. The participants ranked the Market Access Map, Trade Map and Export Potential Map as the most relevant to them, but unanimously ranked the whole course as Excellent (71%) or Good. 46 participants representing 41 BSOs participated, out of which 35 participants representing 30 BSOs graduated. With these trained individuals on board, these 30 BSO are now in a better position to help micro, small and medium-sized businesses adapt and make profitable business decisions – such as export to new markets, intensify their existing trade relations, and reduce costs.
Having completed various assignments to check in on learning progress, the participants graduated with a certificate of completion, presented to them in a virtual ceremony, with a Keynote address from the Deputy Executive Director of ITC, Dorothy Tembo. Ms Tembo highlighted that 43% of the graduates were women: “not quite enough by my expectations, but progress!”
What’s more, the East African and Indian BSOs were able to learn from each other, inspiring one another by asking questions. In addition, by sharing their experience, they have formed meaningful networking connections that SITA encourages to live on, which came out loud and clearly at the online graduation that took place on Wednesday, 16 December 2020.
Ms Tembo emphasized that the skills and methodologies acquired during the course will enable trainees to navigate regulatory requirements and other barriers to trade, and to generally “make better trade-and-investment related decisions”. The business support organizations are now better equipped to help micro, small and medium-sized businesses adapt and make profitable business decisions – such as export to new markets, intensify their existing trade relations, and reduce costs.