Asian crisis proves to be a minor hurdle

BRADYS Building Products is a Western Australian owned and operated company founded in 1919 in Perth by Harry Brady.

“Our company has in the past always been in export markets,” says Bradys export manager Belinda Rakers.

“We have predominantly sold bagged plaster, but we are now offering decorative products.

“Our largest markets are in Asia, where we sell to Japan, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philip-pines and Bahrain. We have just started establishing contacts in India which is quite exciting.”

Ms Rakers joined Bradys five years ago as part of the export graduate scheme with the Depart-ment of Commerce and Trade. She hasn’t looked back.

From her original, mainly administrative, role she rapidly progressed to Export Manager, where she has responsibility for strategic planning, budgeting and customer liaison in the department.

“We have just started selling in Japan, which has proved a very difficult market to break into.

“We don’t have cheap products, and customers in this region can access cheaper products in Asia. But we have an excellent reputation and the fact that Bradys has been in the marketplace since 1919 is something overseas customers find reassuring,” she says.

Ms Rakers firmly believes that, because of the company’s longe-vity, it is a proven survivor and the downturn in the Asian economy was just another hurdle.

At the start of the Asian downturn, Bradys was faced with a crisis that impacted in a major way on its export percentages.

“Brunei was one of our largest markets up until approximately a year ago,” she explains.

“The company we were dealing with lost billions of dollars and was dissolved. Soon afterwards all sales to Brunei stopped and forced us to look for other markets.

“Together these two economic problems reduced the export percentage of company sales from around 50 per cent to 30 per cent.”

This situation needed to be rectified as quickly as possible, which led Ms Rakers to develop other markets with the capacity to fill the gap in export sales.

She recently completed an intensive investigation of India. This country has tremendous sales potential and this is the primary consideration when entering new markets.

Ms Rakers collects information from the WA Department of Commerce and Trade as well as the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, including economic and background data, plus trends and statistics on the size of the building industry in the chosen location.

“We contact all of the names passed on to us by the departments and do an awful lot of faxing, telephoning and sending brochures and samples before we actually visit the country,” she said.

Commerce and Trade also help Bradys financially via the Export Market Support Scheme. This assists the company in attending overseas exhibitions.

“The department provides so much support and assistance it is absolutely invaluable. My job would be a nightmare without this help.”

Ms Rakers is passing on her wealth of knowledge to the students she teaches at Curtin University. Export marketing is her passion and the two classes she teaches each week are benefiting from her hands-on experience.

• This article is reproduced from the booklet Women in Business produced by the WA Department of Commerce and Trade. To obtain copies, phone Sandra Daly on 9327 5576.

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