No matter how much international experience Waterking has, the expertise is not enough to just immediately book a plane ticket to start a joint venture in India. 'Each continent and country has its own culture and rules, and you have to look at those carefully beforehand,' says Aiden van Offeren, who is in talks about a joint venture of Waterking with two multinationals in India.
Waterking specializes in amphibious dredgers and excavators (both production and use). These machines can cope well in wet areas. There is a great opportunity for the company from Tynaarlo to gain a foothold in swampy Indian soil, because two internationally known parties (a steel company and a machine builder) want to work with the technicians from Drenthe to produce locally.
Machinery rusts away after project
Aiden van Offeren, sales & strategy manager at Waterking, therefore has to deal with a wide variety of issues. For example, about the level of knowledge there, how water management is organized in India and how projects proceed there. 'Things are organized very differently in India than they are here,' Van Offeren now knows. 'There is a government department there that decides. And the custom is to leave the machines there after the project is completed. They then just rust away. You want to take a good look at that anyway.' It is all information that comes to Tynaarlo via, among others, a local agent and that Waterking has to do something with. Like the fact that knowledge in India is sparsely shared. And take the fact that people often only know one brand. Aiden van Offeren: 'If they only know one brand, then they have to get to know us first. But then again, if you don't work there you can't show yourself.'
What happens to knowledge when the project stops
In short, it is not a project that can start spontaneously. Help and assistance is needed and that also comes from the NOM, via Wibo van Wier who guides Drenthe SMEs in their international search (see bottom paragraph of this story). Aiden van Offeren: "The best thing is to start working together, but in what form? What is wise? I consult with Wibo van Wier. Because we do want to bring the quality that suits Waterking, we want a good contribution but also certainty of control. We need to share knowledge. That's not a problem, but we want to know in advance what will happen to our knowledge when the project ends.
We also often create a matrix of interests: what is the power of those big parties and how do you avoid being crushed.
Wibo van Wier, account manager Trade IBDO
Waterking sees the great potential of Asia
The project is a test case for Waterking. The company from Tynaarlo sees the great potential of Asia and wants to invest time and energy in it. Van Offeren: "We see opportunities. Both other parties have the resources and knowledge of the locations and we know how to do it. That's a nice combination for us.' Costs, of course, always play a role in this kind of project but that aspect 'is not key in this project.' Van Offeren: 'We would like to enter that market and then such a joint venture is definitely a good method. It might also be an opportunity to go to more countries via that route and then it becomes cheap to supply those countries from India.'
'Working together saves a lot of hassle'
Van Offeren does make a comment when it comes to costs and investments. 'Sometimes you can make machines very cheap, but they become expensive again because of local laws and regulations. In any case, working with local parties saves a lot of hassle.' Waterking, incidentally, is quite active internationally, but not in Asia. The work there is of a different dimension, Van Offeren argues. There are still areas of major flooding there and Waterking's machines can be of great use there. 'Here we do a lot of work in the context of Natura2000 and the work there is of a very different order,' he believes. 'We can mean a lot there. India is therefore an excellent area to start.'
Project in India 'an interesting puzzle'
Wibo's help is more than welcome, says Van Offeren, also because Wibo points out interesting subsidies that keep start-up costs down. And he helps, as does the Indian agent, to get a picture of the method of tendering in India. Van Offeren: "It's an interesting puzzle. What else needs to happen? Legally, everything must be finalized, market research is needed, funding must be in the picture. Van Offeren: 'We are not yet at the stage where we want to commit ourselves. We therefore want a test case first. If that succeeds, we'll look further.' And how will Waterking deal with those rusting away machines? Van Offeren: 'That is of course an eternal waste, it is not sustainable and certainly not our goal. We are going to take a good look at that.'
Export specialist NOM helps with project in India
Wibo van Wier works within NOM on export promotion, especially for Drenthe SMEs in close cooperation with IBDO (Ik ben Drents Ondernemer). Billions are exported annually by companies in Drenthe. These are mainly manufacturing companies that are regularly world players in their specialties. Van Wier also supports Waterking's Indian mission.
He sees it as his job to make clear to SMEs what the government has to offer this group of companies: 'The regional and national government has the necessary to offer in terms of knowledge, resources and market research capacity. Among other things, I put Waterking in touch with an NBSO. In this case, the Dutch foreign post for companies in Indonesia. They were able to map the water sector and customs there.'
Van Wier: "Waterking has plenty of experience within Europe, but should also be able to get off the ground in Asia. How to deal with large Asian multinationals, how to protect intellectual property. These are issues that I consider in the approach. I point out specific subsidy possibilities for engaging a lawyer and bring them into contact with the right advisor at the Netherlands Patent Office.'
The idea is to produce machines locally, Van Wier argues, and then there is immediately the advantage of bypassing import taxes. 'We often also make a matrix of interests: what is the power of those large parties and how do you prevent yourself from being crushed. The main thing then is to get a picture of the common interest.'