precision engineering

Market Diversification – Burnside Autocyl’s Way of Dealing with Brexit

The fact that it has pursued a market diversification strategy for over 30 years means Burnside Autocyl’s growth is unlikely to be unduly affected by Brexit.

Established in 1974 in Tullow, Co Carlow, Burnside Autocyl was focused on the domestic market for its first ten years and when it became saturated the UK was the logical first export market.

However, it soon recognised the potential that existed in other markets and so branched out into Scandinavian countries and then Germany, France, the Benelux countries, Italy, the Czech Republic and Romania followed after that.

Currently exporting into 16 different countries, its most recent venture was to establish a manufacturing and warehousing facility in Pennsylvania in the US – the company’s first global footprint outside Co Carlow in terms of manufacturing capability. It also has sales and marketing offices in Germany and France.

Sales DirectorBurnside Autocyl designs and manufactures customised hydraulic cylinders for original equipment manufacturers in the manual handling, construction and manufacturing sectors.

“In 2013, we identified the US as a market that we had to pursue with more gusto and so established a physical presence in 2014,” says sales director Caroline Kelly.

“It is a hugely exciting market for us, which we are looking to grow right now. We have already seen 10% growth in sales year on year.”

All of Burnside Autocyl’s product shipments to Europe are currently routed through the UK. This is a concern for the company post-Brexit, but a challenge it will overcome, according to Kelly.

“It may mean our shipments will have to be bonded. A lot of questions remain to be answered. At the same time, UK competitors are in a stronger position than us because of weaker sterling,” she says.

“However, we are not overly concerned about Brexit as the UK doesn’t make up a significant part of our overall business and we are confident about growing in other markets.”

 Learn how Enterprise Ireland’s Diversification supports can help you to develop market knowledge and prepare for the challenges of entering new markets.

Aviation Services and LSM Engineering – #GlobalAmbition plans for 2017

With clients across the globe, Gerry Kelly from Aviation Services in Dublin and John Cummins from LSM Engineering in Laois are making plans for the future

To learn more about Enterprise Ireland supports and for further information on building capabilities click here.

Irish Breeze Gathers Force in the US

The manager of WaterWipes new sales office in New Hampshire tells Mary Sweetman what it takes to grow in the US market.

The story of WaterWipes is one of recognising a market need from up close and personal. Louth-based businessman Edward McCloskey, son of Boyne Valley Foods founder Malachy, established Irish Breeze as a cotton wool, soap and skincare manufacturer over 20 years ago to further diversify the family business beyond food.

When his own little bundle of joy arrived in the mid-noughties, Edward didn’t need a huge amount of convincing to recognise the attraction of wet wipes for busy mums, dads and minders, carrying out those messy cleaning jobs that come with nappy changing. But at the same time, he was shocked to learn of the cocktail of chemicals they contained – and convinced they weren’t doing anything to help his new-born daughter’s nappy rash.

The idea for WaterWipes was born: a product that combined all the convenience of a wipe, but was as pure and wholesome for little ones’ sensitive skin as cotton wool and water.

Dot-com channel

As time has proven, the idea was sound. But supermarket own-brand baby wipes typically retail at about 99c per pack, so the launch of a premium product into a mature, commodity market mid-recession wasn’t the most fortunate timing.

“It resulted in a lot of sales focus on the dot-com channel, starting with Amazon and the usual suspects,” explains French native, Christophe Bernigaud, who was hired by Irish Breeze as marketing manager for WaterWipes in January 2012.

Bernigaud, who has a background in international sales development and marketing, both online and in the ‘real world’, took on responsibility for developing the brand’s online sales, which included the UK, Irish, US, Canadian, New Zealand, French, German and Baltic markets.

Seeking a focus

Seeking one of these regions to focus on and become a significant player in, Irish Breeze looked across the Atlantic. “When we started seeing the feedback, we started focusing on the US, because it offered the biggest opportunity in volume terms, but also because it was waking up to a natural trend,” Bernigaud explains. “We saw we could surf this trend. While the cheapest was winning in Europe, we could be competitive within the natural/organic niche in the USA.”

On the back of deals with US retailers, including Walgreens/Duane Reed, Target and Amazon, as well as growth into the medical sector, where the skin-friendly wipes are being used in premature infant care, Irish Breeze opened a US sales and marketing office for WaterWipes earlier this year. The office in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is headed by Bernigaud and resourced with two US business development executives. Manufacturing remains in Ireland.

As to strategy, “multichannel is now”, Bernigaud explains, so it longer makes any sense to distinguish between online and ‘offline’ sales. All the old ingredients of the marketing mix are still required, plus some new ones.


For the consumer to make that psychological journey from product awareness to the ‘buy’ decision, “they need to have seen the ad in the baby magazine in their obstetrician’s office, tried a sample, and seen the product on the supermarket shelf.

“You need still marketing, PR, events, your paid, your earned and your owned media. Your research needs to be qualitative and quantitative,” Bernigaud continues. “There is no silver bullet.”

As to digital, he confesses to being somewhat sceptical of the “overhyping” of social media. “Just because you are on Facebook, doesn’t’ mean you will sell. I’m more interested in behavioural marketing. You need to know the customer and understand what’s important to them, what they care about. I don’t care whether the consumer is 20 or 60. I’m interested in their behaviours.”

Second target

In addition to the consumer, Irish Breeze has another target group – the retail buyer – to consider – be that Target, Walmart or Amazon. Here Bernigaud says that, again, pre-digital-world approaches remain valid. People buy from people, and understanding what’s important to them is about all the usual things that corporates care about: the retailer’s value proposition – what sets them apart from their competitors; their pain points, where they are being hit or threatened; their corporate culture and the language they use to describe their business. For example, knowing that Target refers to the store’s customers as ‘guests’ demonstrates that you understand Target’s universe.

“We also need to understand the marketplace at every state level; each is a different country,” he adds. That’s why the new US sales and business developers are experienced account managers, but “not too experienced”. They’re at a point in their lives where they can take on a lot of travel and don’t mind being away from family.

Illustrative of the commitment needed, when we spoke, Bernigaud had just landed off a flight from Europe to New Hampshire, when he got a call to fly to St Louis the next morning to meet a buyer Schnucks, a Missouri-headquartered retail chain with 96 outlets in the Midwestern states.

“That would be considered small in the US. In Ireland, we’d consider it huge,” he says, underscoring the potential of the market.

Czech Out Prospects

Only two hours by direct flight from Dublin, the Czech Republic, with a population of 10.5 million, is probably best known for short breaks to its magical capital city Prague, Skoda cars, excellent beer and great tennis players.

But it is also an economy on an upward curve – and therefore opportunities for Irish business are on the rise.

Eurostat data on GDP and purchasing power shows the Prague region of the Czech Republic is the ninth most prosperous in the EU.

The region has attracted many multinational investors, mainly in automotive, engineering, electronics and IT. Industry now accounts for 47.3% of the commercial economy, making the Czech Republic the most industrialised country in the EU.

Opportunities for Irish companies

Multinationals and home-grown businesses are always looking for new suppliers and innovative solutions. Windows of opportunity are open for Irish manufacturers of technologies, engineered parts and materials, specialised plastics, material-handling products; and also for suppliers of logistics solutions or enterprise software.

Apart from industry, the booming tourism industry shows an appetite for travel software, while the market-research company BMI singles out the Czech Republic as the most attractive medical-devices market in Central and Eastern Europe.

The Czech Republic is a rewarding, reliable and innovative business-to-business market that can help Irish companies diversify sales.

They can meet potential customers from very different parts of the world that made the Czech Republic their base, especially industrial conglomerates from Japan, South Korea and, increasingly, China.

No wonder that a number of Irish companies, including household names such as Kingspan, Smurfit Kappa, Mergon International, ICON, Grafton Recruitment and PM Group, have established operations in this market.

Many firms also use the Czech Republic as a gateway for sales in Central and Eastern Europe, a market of 110-plus million consumers.

Since joining the EU in 2004, Irish exports to Central Europe have grown over 300%. Getting involved in the Czech Republic requires strong local knowledge. It’s absolutely crucial to dedicate time to researching your customers’ needs, assessing alternatives and properly formulating your offer.

Ireland is very popular here – in many aspects it is a role model – but this goodwill does not mean you can skip your homework.

Advice for doing business in the Czech Republic

Czechs are quite pragmatic, focused on results and technical competence. However, personal relationships and mutual trust are critical. Face-to-face meetings go straight to the point and place facts before sentiment.

It is important to follow up on meetings and deliver on promises. Similar to other central European countries, Czech businesspeople are cautious and don’t believe it until they see it.

Although sticky points are discussed at meetings, people like to have things confirmed in writing and accompanied with sufficient evidence to back up claims. If we are to believe the research of British communication guru Richard D Lewis, Czech and Irish business cultures and negotiation styles are very similar.

Business meetings are invariably conducted in English, which is taught in schools.

Czechs are proud of their country and what they achieved since the fall of communism in 1989. According to The Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2013 ‘Where to be Born’ index, the Czech Republic has the highest quality of life among new EU member states and ranks 28th globally.

Judging from packed Aer Lingus and Ryanair planes heading from Dublin to Prague, an ever increasing number of Irish people are becoming familiar with Czechs’ attitude to the work-life balance – and socialising is an important part of all relationships. Unsurprisingly, this is not a barrier for Irish business visitors.

An Opportunity as Well as a Rival: New Zealand’s Agriculture Sector

It seems counterintuitive that an important market for Irish agriculture could also be a major competitor. But despite the great distance that separates them, a lucrative commercial relationship exists between Ireland and New Zealand.

The two countries share strong historical links, innumerable social and cultural ties and, in many cases, deep personal connections that help business relationships.

With a long history in farming, agribusiness has emerged as a key pillar of Irish innovation and today several of our companies are world leaders in their specialised fields.

So it should come as no surprise that New Zealand, a country in which agriculture accounts for about 60pc of exports and is the largest part of the tradeable economy, should be a market for specialist Irish equipment.

New Zealanders are hugely impressed with the inventiveness of Irish agribusiness and the supports around it such as the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation, which provides breeding information to the dairy and beef industries.

Agri Innovation

A drive for research and innovation has long been a feature of the sector in Ireland, with robust investments in education, animal health, farm equipment and management technology, seed production and plant genetics. These offerings are greatly in demand in New Zealand’s arable farming and livestock industry in particular. Ireland’s presence for the tenth consecutive year at the recent New Zealand National Fieldays – akin to the Ploughing Championships – is testament to the importance of this market for Irish agribusiness.

Doing Business

National Fieldays provides a platform for companies to meet thousands of potential customers from all over New Zealand. The connections made during the week provide valuable insights into the needs of the local market. This year, five Irish companies exhibited on the Ireland stand, with a further 11 displaying independently or with local partners.

Exhibits included electronic calving sensor Moocall and Cross Agricultural’s beet processing machinery.

Irish manufacturers have built up a strong reputation for high-quality, reliable machinery at a competitive price. Balers from McHale, mulchers from Malone, mixer wagons from Keenan, tankers from Abbey and wrappers from Tanco are well known.

Attachments also have appeal. Dromone hitches, Brian Scott buckets and ProDig grabs and forks are building good presences here. Tractor-powered and towed implements in particular have proven their ability to withstand the demands of a New Zealand farm.

Irish companies specialising in facilities are also doing well. Dairymaster has developed world-class dairy equipment for any parlour, Kingspan supply insulation of all specifications and Crowley Engineering offer turn-key solutions for dry bulk-handling industries such as feed milling and grain storage.

Products developed for Irish agriculture are generally a good fit here. Farm sizes are similar, both industries are pastoral-based, premium-quality orientated and highly export-focused. And like Ireland, New Zealand is moving away from bulk commodity exports to more consumer-oriented, processed output.

Innovation is key to the future development of the industry in both countries and with no subsidies, New Zealand farmers are highly business-focused and open to anything that makes their operations more efficient.

So Irish exporters will get a good hearing here. The most successful ones have built long-lasting relationships with distributors with the local networks and necessary resources to cover the market. Separate entry strategies for the North and South islands should be considered.

Delivering good after-sales service is essential for repeat business. Frontline support like maintenance and breakdowns is best handled locally, while more complex issues around software or technology can be supported from Ireland.

Opportunities for collaboration between Ireland and New Zealand – from research, advice, inputs, production and final product -unquestionably exist in this healthy and stable economy. As the Maori saying goes, Naku te rourou nau te rourou ka ora ai te iwi (“With your basket and my basket, the people will live”).

Mary Kinnane is Enterprise Ireland director for Australia/New Zealand.

This article originally appeared in the Sunday Independent.

Like the Rubik’s Cube, Hungary is Worth a Twist for Irish Businesses

The designer of the Rubik’s Cube said “we turn the cube, and it in turn twists us”. In other words, to solve the puzzle you must look for other perspectives.

Hungarian professor Erno Rubik’s aphorism is apt for his home country today. Unorthodox politics and the controversial treatment of migrants has hurt its reputation, while the international business community has criticised Hungary for bringing its finances into check with the help of taxes on mostly foreign-owned banks and large companies.

However, much like the Rubik’s Cube, looking at Hungary from a variety of angles may lead to a different perspective.

For instance, it ranks in the top quartile of the Human Development Index and is the ninth most complex economy in the world – six places above Ireland. It exited the EU’s Excessive Deficit Procedure in 2013 and has defied predictions with growth projected at an average 2.5pc out to 2020. Imminent income tax cuts and a relaxation of a bank levy are expected to boost what has been described as a ‘creditless’ recovery.

It is a country of great artistic, cultural and sporting tradition. Hungarians won gold medals at every summer Olympics except Antwerp 1920 and Los Angeles 1984, when they did not compete. It was also the first country to host a Formula One Grand Prix from behind the Iron Curtain in 1986.

It counts composers such as Bela Bartok, Zoltan Kodaly and Franz Liszt among its native sons and is also a pioneer of cinema, providing Hollywood with Adolph Zukor, who founded Paramount, and Wilhelm Fuchs, who founded Fox Studios.

Hungary also boasts a strong scientific tradition, with scientists of Hungarian birth or origin receiving the Nobel Prize on more than 20 occasions. The OECD ranks Hungary 16th in the world in science education.

Indeed technical skills, allied to moderate wages and a location on the edge of European supply chains, led to investment in the early 1990s. Today, inward FDI amounts to 78pc of GDP, the highest in the region.

Hungary has been particularly successful in attracting FDI in the automotive and electronics sectors (often intertwined). As a result, participation in global value chains is among the highest in the OECD.

Large investors include Audi, Suzuki, GM and Mercedes plus more than 700 suppliers. Bosch, Alpin, Samsung, Honeywell and Rosenberger are among the big electronics players – and many are scaling up. This should interest Irish suppliers with sectoral references or offering added value for production or services.

There is also opportunity in Hungary’s national development plan (2014-2020), with €6bn allocated for health, infrastructure, environmental protection and tourism – which is predicted to increase 4.2pc this year, to a total of just over 12m visitors. Similar growth is expected until 2020, boosting tourism-related expenditure and hotel industry value.

BMI Research expects growth in the medical devices market of more than 6.3pc in 2016 and with the country reliant on imports to meet demand, producers and developers of time- and cost-saving healthcare solutions should take note.

Opportunities for Irish companies

Irish firms are already active here. Architectural practice O’Donnell+Tuomey designed the redevelopment of Budapest’s Central European University in time for this year’s 25th anniversary and CRH opened its new business services centre in the capital, providing administration for operations in Austria, Hungary and Slovakia.

Outside Budapest, McHale Hungaria produces hay bailers in Szolnok; Kingspan manufactures construction industry components in Ujhartyan; and in Torokbalint, Kerry Group produces food ingredients.

So despite its reputational issues, Irish businesses should look again and take note of possibilities in Hungary, perhaps with the aid of an invention of a former Budapest newspaper editor called Laszlo Biro.

Ladislav Muller is Enterprise Ireland director for the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria and is based in Prague

This article was originally published in the Sunday Independent

Innovation Is the Future of Irish Business in Australia

Australia’s buoyant economy offers an important post-Brexit solution for Irish companies seeking to diversify globally and can act as a gateway for entry into the wider Asia Pacific region. Developing these opportunities was a key driver behind the trade and investment programme organised in the context of President Michael D. Higgins’s State Visit to Australia. The former Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Frances Fitzgerald TD, also joined the programme aimed at strengthening economic and export opportunities between Australia and Ireland.

Over the course of 8 days, 2 cities, 14 events and 170 meetings with Australian buyers, new business opportunities were sought for 55 Irish companies, 27 of which had yet to export to Australia, and 16 of which were heavily Brexit exposed.

Strong export performance is critical to the Irish economy. Despite previous economic contraction, Ireland increased its exports by 40% and Ireland’s export performance continues to be responsible for our sustained economic growth. With Britain’s decision to leave the EU, expanding Ireland’s export footprint beyond the UK is more urgent for Irish business.

Increasingly, Irish businesses are looking to Australia as a key export market. In 2016, more than 300 Enterprise Ireland backed companies exported goods worth €256 million to Australia, 14 percent more than the previous year. Australia is also a gateway to the Asia Pacific region which delivered double-digit growth for Enterprise Ireland companies in 2016.  An impressive 16% year on year gain made it the second-fastest growing region for these companies in 2016.

The recent trade mission was the largest programme Enterprise Ireland has ever undertaken in the region. The companies that participated on the programme are reflective of a dynamic Ireland that is known the world over for its innovation. During the Australian trade mission, 14 Enterprise Ireland clients signed significant deals and reached major milestones with Australian partners.

Irish company Brightflag signed a multi-year contract with Telstra the biggest telco in Australia, affirming that Australian companies are forward thinking and embrace new technologies which bring value to their business.  Cubic Telecom signed a €20 million deal also with Telstra and Portwest acquired a second Australian workwear company for close to €10 million. Combilift secured a AUS €1 million contract with an Australian construction company, while Akari Software signed €5 million worth of deals with Australian universities and the Irish startup WeBringg became the new logistics arm for Menulog, the largest food-ordering platform in Australia.

Meanwhile, four Enterprise Ireland-backed companies Prodigy Learning, WeBringg, GECKO Governance and Poppulo announced plans to open new offices in Australia.

These successes demonstrate that innovation is central to Irish companies’ success internationally. Alex Kelly, President and co-founder of Irish company Brightflag affirmed its importance in Australia, saying:

“From our experience Australian companies are forward thinking and embrace new technologies which bring value to their business”.

For the past two years Ireland has been Europe’s fastest growing economy, a growth that has been innovation-driven. The European Commission’s 2017 Innovation Scorecard ranked Irish SMEs number one. A long-term economic strategy has helped Ireland to build a reputation as an ‘innovation island’. With global markets undergoing historic change, innovation can help contain the impacts of market volatility and provide long-term benefits. As Enterprise Ireland helps Irish businesses prepare for Brexit, innovation is the heart of our strategy. With global markets undergoing historic change, innovation can help contain the impacts of market volatility and provide long-term benefits.

Like Australia, Ireland must be globally competitive in export markets to sustain economic growth. While Australia is beginning a journey with the launch of its Innovation Agenda, Ireland’s innovation strategy is deeply embedded and will continue to thrive as we encourage homegrown companies to diversify and expand to bright horizons. Finding new markets is now a major challenge to the continued success of Irish business. Deepening commercial partnerships between Australia and Ireland will contributing to the future success of all our enterprises.

Mary Kinnane is Enterprise Ireland director for Australia & New Zealand

Discover Enterprise Ireland’s Market Insights here

This article was originally published in the Sunday Independent

Acquiring a Company in the UK: 5 tips for Buyers

  1.  In the UK more due diligence is done upfront than in Ireland, well ahead of creating the heads of terms agreement. It’s also regarded as a confirmatory process rather than looking for issues that could stop the process. Irish buyers need to be aware of that, advises M&A specialist Brian Murphy, a Corporate Finance Partner, DC Corporate.
  2. Brian also recommends getting lawyers involved at an early stage because, although it is very similar to Ireland’s, it is still a different legal system.
  3. There is merit in going the adviser-to-adviser route. It’s an approach that advocates say enables a buyer to be taken more seriously, more quickly. It is assumed that the adviser will have done his or her homework and have a good grasp of their client’s seriousness of intent and their ability to execute a deal.
  4. Make direct approaches to potential targets you are genuinely interested in, initially through your advisers, advises Alan Bruce MD of Anderco, a Cork-based company currently acquiring companies in the UK. “I’d advise picking up the phone and talking directly; get an appointment and have a discussion.”
  5. Remember that the UK is very open to discussing positions and tends to be transparent. It is pretty much ‘what it says on the tin’ – direct, proper and very English.


Image by ‘tmy‘ on Flickr Creative Commons.

Pointers on the French Market from Irish Business Tricel​​​​​​​

France has become a key market for Killarney-based manufacturing firm Tricel since it obtained a government licence to supply sewage systems to one-off houses there in 2011. Here managing director Mike Stack shares his insights into the French market:

France is a gigantic market and you really have to commit resources to it. You can’t just dip your toes in and expect to be successful. The language is hugely important. You need people working for you that speak French. We have strong local teams on the ground, which has been very important. People from your company just arriving over once every couple of weeks won’t cut it. There has to be a local support network in the country.

Having a base in France – our factory in Poitiers – has allowed us to pursue an expansion strategy into other European markets. Once we got established there, we found distributors in Belgium and then Germany. We are also focused on French-speaking markets such as Martinique and Guadeloupe now that we have built up the language capability.

Building a strong brand has been important to us in France. Further to being awarded French and German trading licences (in 2011 and 2012, respectively) the Tricel brand for our environmental products became well established in those markets. This led us to the decision in 2014 to rebrand the whole company from Killarney Manufacturing Group to Tricel. It is quite a unique name globally and we have found since that it works well generally in international markets.

Talking The Customer’s Language

Over half of Europeans (54 per cent) can hold a conversation in at least one additional language, 25 per cent speak at least two additional languages and 10% at least three. Irish business people are becoming more fluent, but we have to make this push more efficient, and become – like the Dutch, whose merchant culture has long made them multilingual – fluent in the languages of others.

At the heart of our complacency is a misconception that globalisation means that we can all get by speaking English, and that as native speakers, we’re alright. Another misconception is that we should speak our customers’ languages simply to be understood in case their English is not great. But really the reason the language will get you ahead is because you can research the market better, understand who your local and international competitors are (and position yourself accordingly) and be more aware of the cultural nuances in conducting business in that country.

The good news is that learning and practising languages has never been easier. The universities have intensive courses – for example, UCD’s Applied Language Centre. The specialist Sandford Language Institute in Milltown Park, Dublin, offers in-company courses, as well as courses in languages in demand, plus many courses in languages “subject to demand”. And there are familiar courses in individual languages from associations like Alliance Française, the GoetheInstitut, and Istituto Di Cultura.

The Berlin-based Abroadwith arranges immersion stays and courses where individuals or groups can learn and improve a language by staying with native speakers and going to classes in the country where the language is spoken; it has just launched a specialist business course option.

For the daily, constant, non-stop practice that everyone needs to become first at ease in speaking and understanding, and then gradually fluent, it is not always easy to get to centralised courses. But a host of online resources are available now that were undreamed-of even twenty years ago.

Comprehension: watch films in your target language – first with English subtitles, then with subtitles in the language. You can often buy old DVDs with “subtitles for the deaf” for as little as a few cents on the localised versions of Amazon. Some TV subscriptions, like Netflix, come with own-language subtitles which you can turn on through the settings. On YouTube, there are TED talks in many languages with closed-caption subtitles in the language of the speaker.

Grammar: Duolingo – a game-like app that drills you daily in your chosen language – is played by over 100 million people learning European languages, Hebrew, Russian, Vietnamese, etc. It brings you to a notional 62 per cent fluency level, which means you have a solid basic vocabulary and can use the main grammatical structures. It’s wildly addictive: many people start with one language and extend into learning several more.

Speaking: The Mixxer is a language exchange website that puts people in contact to swap languages. English is in high demand, luckily for us. You put up a brief ‘profile’ of yourself, with only as much information as you want to share, and offer to swap languages with native speakers of the language you are learning. When you are contacted, or you contact others, you talk to native speakers of your target language on Skype – typically half an hour in English and half an hour in their native language. (I talked to a French civil servant, who was due to be moved to the US; she was speaking to 10 people a week.)

Reading and local knowledge: international newspapers’ websites are updated at speed, and titles like Le Nouvel Observateur, Bild, Kommersant, and so on, are great vocabulary-builders. International TV is easy to watch online and will keep you au fait with the politics and business news of your target market.

Technical help: online dictionaries include the contextual, audio-enhanced, eight-language – contextual meaning that you can enter a phrase and usually find an example of the phrase used in context, with audio.

TuneIn Radio: streams radio and podcasts from all over the world, with ‘slow news’ programmes in many languages.

One-to-one classes without leaving the office: most of the above are free. If you want dedicated professional teachers, italki, again using Skype, is an aggregate site on which native-speaking language teachers offer their services and charge by the hour. The advantage of this is that you can often find a teacher with specialist vocabulary relating to your business. Babbel has drills and comprehension exercises – good teaching made digital.

Cultural insight: it is now very affordable to buy used books in many language on aggregation sites such as Alibris and AbeBooks: for basic vocabulary (and the slang that you may not wish to use but you need to understand), comic books, children’s books, thrillers, cookery books, and for your own business need technical manuals, political works, business books in the language of your market. (A tip: you will learn faster if you do not look up the words you do not know as you go along, but instead underline in pencil any unfamiliar word, and when you finish the book go back and read it again – this time you will know most words by context.)

For when you are travelling: podcasts like the Irish give you daily lessons – often free for the basic podcast, but with PDFs of the lessons with further help available for a small payment. It will make such a difference when you walk into your supplier’s or into that conference and greet people and speak in their own language – and even before you are fluent, it will break down barriers and warm the relationship. There is no better negotiating tool than a mother language.

Opportunities for Irish businesses in Poland

The challenges of doing business in Poland are diminishing over the years according to Enterprise Ireland market advisors, with a broad spectrum of activity across many sectors. Unfamiliarity with the Polish market and the physical size of the country may come as a surprise to Irish businesses looking at Poland as a new international market, but resources are there to assist them #GlobalAmbition

To learn more about Enterprise Ireland supports and for further information on doing business in Poland click here

Irish firms should put their money on India for decent returns

Enterprise Ireland’s Rory Power, Manager for India and South Asia, ruminates on the potential opportunites for Irish businesses in India.

When India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi withdrew 500- and 1,000-rupee notes from circulation at less than 24-hours’ notice earlier this month, it set off a storm of controversy.

Peculiarly though, while painful in the short-term, the Indian public is broadly supportive of the measure – but not the means of implementation – because it aims to clamp down on counterfeiting, increase tax take and stifle funding for criminal organisations.

It is estimated that 90pc of business in India is cash-based and that the black economy accounts for around 20pc of GDP.

Queues formed outside banks almost immediately after the announcement, as holders of the “demonetised” notes – worth €7 and €14 respectively – lodged them into their accounts in order to realise their value. The government’s swift action was taken to prevent tax evaders with huge stashes of the notes trying to exchange them for other denominations.

While the intention of the measure was to target what is referred to here as black money, it had an unexpected knock-on effect. Because so much cash was being lodged into banks, it drove interest rates down. The State Bank of India has announced it will cut lending rates.

Many analysts believe the withdrawal of the notes, which account for an astonishing 86pc of the total value of currency in circulation, will be economically beneficial.

It was an eventful time for Enterprise Ireland to be hosting a trade mission, as 13 companies led by Minister of State for Small Business, Pat Breen arrived just days after the surprise announcement. The issue dominated the media and there were huge queues outside banks – though no protests.

We had companies involved in aviation, financial services, health, ICT and education on the mission. These are all sectors where India offers considerable opportunity.

The country has been growing at an average 7pc annually for the past 20 years, has a median age of just 25, and a middle class estimated to increase tenfold over the next decade. This growth is expected to continue.

We visited Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) as part of our mission. There, Shaw Academy and India’s largest e-commerce marketplace Flipkart agreed a deal for the Irish online educator to provide certified courses in photography. In Delhi, a partnership between Irish video conferencing specialists Vu2Vu and Indian company LAMHAS Satellite Services was agreed. And Shimmer announced details of a €3.5m joint-venture with Essen Technologies, which will see the Dublin-based firm’s sensor technology incorporated into Essen’s wearable ECG monitoring device.

Expanding opportunities in the aviation sector was a key objective of the mission. Minister Breen met the Indian Minister for Civil Aviation and addressed the Aero Expo India convention attended by key decision makers and stakeholders from the Indian aviation, aerospace and related industries.

Most significantly, Minister Jayant Sinha agreed to lead a senior delegation from the Indian aviation sector (poised to be the third largest in the world within 10 years) to Ireland to meet with Irish companies and to explore potential partnerships.

Minister Breen also highlighted Ireland’s capacity as a study-abroad destination during an Education in Ireland fair. Fourteen Irish Higher Education Institutes are participating in the event which tours four cities.

India is a stable democracy with a strong business ethic. The market still poses bureaucratic challenges but has been making progress; and the almost-universal conduct of business through English removes at least one hurdle to entering the market. As the clients on our mission have shown, Irish companies can thrive in India with the right approach and a little persistence.