High Five

Written by ProfitGuide Staff

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Success story

LEA International Ltd.

Engineering consulting
Sales to India: $8.5 million (approx.)

Building strong relationships has won LEA International Ltd. a world of opportunity in India. The Markham, Ont.-based engineering consulting company designs roads, and bridges, water and sewer services, conducts transportation studies, and provides management consulting for governments, crown corporations, private developers and international organizations such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

LEA began to focus on India in 1992. “India was beginning to open up and lower barriers to international trade, and it was now recognizing a tremendous need for roads,” says president John Farrow. LEA hired three staffers in New Delhi to run a permanent office “through thick and thin.” The local hires provided a bridge between Western and Indian cultures, helped deal with regulations and crafted a network of supporting professional service firms.

Today, 550 of LEA’s 700 employees work in India. The firm enjoys annual revenue of roughly $20 million; about $8.5 million comes from Indian contracts alone. However, selling professional services into India “is like selling brain surgery,” says Farrow. “You have to take time to develop credibility. Trust has to be won.”

LEA achieves both by bringing clients to Canada for training and frequently sending its execs to India. “People here have to go over to demonstrate that they’re really behind what’s happening in India and are willing to share their expertise,” says Farrow. In 2001 LEA directed manpower and engineering expertise to earthquake relief in the state of Gujarat, an LEA customer. “It was based on humanitarian rather than commercial interests,” says Farrow, “and it reinforced the relationship we had with the client.” — SB

What India wants

1   Infrastructure:
The state wants to add 50,000 megawatts of capacity over the next few years, creating great demand for equipment and services related to power generation and distribution. Because India’s telecommunications and transportation infrastructures also need to keep pace with economic growth, there’s a big market for engineering and environmental consulting services, plus cellular hardware and software.

2   Health care:
India’s medical system is becoming increasingly privatized. There’s opportunity in laboratory supply and management, diagnostics, disease control, hospital-management software and R&D partnerships in pharmaceuticals, an area of Indian strength.

3   Consumer goods:

© 2004 Susanne Baillie

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