Since 2000 we have been progressing towards foreign markets and, after a number of trials and errors, we have succeeded in carving a space for ourselves thanks to the work and effort of the teams involved. Below is the complete interview with Fran Manzano, CEO of Igarle:
Q.: When you launched the internationalisation process, what reason, destinations and goals did you have in mind?
A.: For several years, since 2000, Igarle had been giving thought to the best internationalisation strategy. Attempts made through export consortiums, market studies for product positioning, specific fairs and actions, distribution partners in target countries and experiences in different countries (Latin America, France and Portugal) didn’t work for us. Our activity, the development and introduction of Business ICT (ERP, SGA, Logistics, Business Intelligence and interoperability) meant that, for very different reasons, the traditional methods are neither effective, nor of course efficient for us. Our products are of very high quality and are enormously competitive, but the distance factor and the need to be there in the different countries, combined with an obvious need for localised services meant that the projects failed to enjoy sufficient respective trust to develop. The key lay in working on our weak points and on boosting our strengths, ridding ourselves of fears and complexes.
P.: What would describe as being the factor that sets your strategy apart?
R.: At the end of the day, the specialisation of our solutions, expansion through our customers’ supply chains and our organisation’s human resources, highly qualified and committed to taking up this challenge, have meant that in the last 5 years Igarle has maintained exports amounting to 35% in its annual turnover, an unthinkable amount for a software company of our characteristics. Our activity is complex, but it has enormous benefits which, if you know how to take advantage of them, allow us to overcome hurdles that could seem impossible. Connectivity, the ubiquitous nature of our services, telecommuting, specialisation and shared knowledge mean that we can offer the same standard of service to a company down the road as we can to another in China, France, Belgium, Mexico or the USA. We now work with and provide support to more than 15 countries, with customers of several nationalities, and not necessarily in the foreign plants of local clients. We now have the necessary structure to provide this service to foreign companies.
Q.: What were the biggest obstacles you had to overcome?
A.: Given the wide range of working hours we deal with (from America to Asia and including Europe), the main obstacles were to provide services during hours of availability and in the different languages required for communication. The translation of programs and documentation is extremely simple; we have them in languages ranging from Basque to Chinese, including French, Portuguese, English, Catalan and Romanian. The complications lie in finding specialised staff with knowledge of all of these languages who are capable of doing consultancy, training and support work. But we have dealt with that weak point and have successfully overcome the issue.
Q.: What have been your main strengths or pillars?
A.: The quality, robustness and flexibility of our business software, our services in relation to international certification, the qualification and motivation of our staff and the conviction that our applications offer the same standards as those made in other countries, even if those manufacturers are recognised multinational firms. Having been born and raised in the Basque Country, thanks to its small size and the strong local competition in our sector, we have been forced to maintain a very high technical and competitive standard thanks to which we can move fast and successfully in foreign markets that haven’t come from the same breeding ground.
Q.: What stage are you at now and what are your objectives for the future?
A.:Our strategy is clear; we will maintain our initiatives of specialisation and perimeter growth in countries where we are already working. We plan to increase our export percentage to 50%. Thanks to the steps we have taken to date and the experience acquired we are also particularly well prepared to accompany customers from our own country that are growing in other countries; however, our focus lies in continuing to grow through customers that have their headquarters in other countries.