Opportunity knocks for Irish in the eurozone
The Chinese use two characters for the word 'crisis'. One character represents danger; the other opportunity.
Although we continue to face a period of uncertainty for Irish businesses, we are also better placed than we sometimes imagine. Irish firms looking for export opportunities have many elements in their favour.
The largest opportunity on our doorstep is the eurozone.
Historically, we have enjoyed very good trade relationships with the UK and US, driven by size and ease of market access, geography, language and cultural links. While this trade is important and hard won, a refocus of the export lens to build on this success could benefit Irish firms enormously.
The eurozone offers ease of access to 340 million people in the 19 states sharing the single currency and a stable economy that, as a bloc, will continue to grow a further 1.3pc through 2019. The benefits of the single currency should not be underestimated: zero currency risk with no fluctuating exchange rates or conversion costs.
Trade in the eurozone benefits from the absence of tariffs and customs, while a common regulatory environment means that Irish goods and services comply with EU legislation.
Although the eurozone's population is five times that of the UK, it accounts for only 20pc of all Irish exports. As such, it presents what Minister for Trade Pat Breen described as one of the greatest sources of "untapped export potential" at Enterprise Ireland's Eurozone Summit earlier this year.
In order to successfully tap into eurozone markets all elements of new market entry preparations are required: market research to select the market with the best opportunities; a value proposition that matches the new market and highlights your competitive advantage; the right route to market; and the resourcing of people, skills and funding to make it happen.
Enterprise Ireland's world-class Market Research Centre has extensive resources to aid your research, while our Excel at Market Intelligence programme will advise how best to conduct market research.
Our Market Discovery fund is a key financial support for new market entry, ensuring you have funding to research, get expert advice and conduct market study visits. GradStart provides up to 70pc of two-year salaries for graduates with relevant market language skills.
Many companies we support have successfully entered the eurozone in recent years. Among them was workwear company Portwest, which said that when a single client collapsed, they lost 35pc of their business.
"It taught us a hard lesson about diversification," said Orla Hughes, Portwest's European Commercial Manager. "If we didn't expand to Europe, our business would be only 50pc of what it is now."
When parking marketplace firm ParkPnP conducted market research, it found strong competitors in its target market, the UK, and opted to move directly into Europe.
By acquiring a local Belgian firm, it quickly gained market share and, importantly, local market knowledge.
CEO Garret Flower cited the importance of market research: "You are immediately drawn to Germany because of the scale. But dig a little deeper and you find that Germans don't pay for their parking via apps; 90pc of them still prefer to pay by coin."
The decision to locate in Belgium paid off. Garret Flower said: "Having done it this way, we feel we have a solid foundation to roll out across Europe and are now ready to enter France and Germany."
Companies we support benefit from our market advisers' near-unmatched knowledge of market dynamics, target buyers, networks and ecosystems across six eurozone locations.
When you're ready to enter the market, we offer a key manager grant to help co-fund the salary of personnel with the right skills to work with market advisers and drive your diversification plans.
By 2020, Enterprise Ireland aims to help boost eurozone exports to €6.15bn from the €4.1bn recorded in 2017.
It is ambitious, but achievable, if we "take advantage of the eurozone", as was advised by the first President of the European Council, Count Herman Van Rompuy, at the eurozone Summit.
Anne Lanigan is regional director for the Eurozone at Enterprise Ireland.
Sunday Indo Business