UK Trade & Investment’s Defence & Security Organisation played a crucial role helping ARL Comms expand overseas, starting with Africa.
When an emergency occurs, it may be attended by personnel from a variety of organisations, such as police, fire brigade, the military or rescue services. They must co-ordinate their efforts, yet each has its own communications system, mobile network and hardware system working on different radio frequencies. This may result in confusion, lack of collaboration, unsatisfactory decision-making and increased risk to life and property.
ARL Comms is an early stage start-up communications company, based in Crewe in the northwest of England. Established in 2010, its small, experienced team from the telecommunications and security industries created a rapidly deployable and cost effective communications system that can operate between systems (interoperate) for sharing intelligence and collaborating during emergency situations, the Emergency Area Radio Link (EARL). EARL was developed together with industry partners and potential users, including emergency responders, government, military and academia, ensuring that the system answers the real issues involved in co-ordinating a multi-organisational response to an incident.
Steve Cappa, ARL Comms’s Managing Director and Director of Business Development, says:
In an emergency situation, good communication can make the difference between life and death.
EARL allows organisations and emergency services to communicate securely and reliably, over local, national and international boundaries. It’s a state of the art solution that helps in both man-made and natural incidents in a rapid, cost effective way.
Diversifying their business
In early 2012, ARL Comms decided to diversify its risk away from relying solely on the UK for new business. In March the company attended an SME Export Growth Seminar, organised by UK Trade & Investment’s (UKTI’s) Defence & Security Organisation (DSO) at the Lowry, Manchester. ARL Comms went on to participate in Passport to Export, the UKTI programme that gives exporting companies the tools they need to grow their business internationally.
Having spent time living in Nigeria, Steve was attracted to doing business there. A growing economy and marketplace, available funding, eagerness to do business with the UK, and civil unrest across much of the continent all suggested that this was a strong potential market.
Once we came into contact with UKTI DSO, we realised that our micro business could enter the world stage, and that there were people available to help us.
Over the last five to ten years, Africa has really developed. People there are very motivated to build a future for themselves and are extremely positive about doing business with the UK. Since we began talking to Nigerian organisations in March 2012, things have moved very quickly.
Building the business internationally
So far, ARL Comms’s experience of doing business in Nigeria has been very positive. In May 2012, the company signed a technology partnership and distribution agreement with TECH-TIS Nigeria. It worked with UKTI DSO to arrange two exhibitions, one of which had been due to take place at the British Embassies in Lagos and Abuja, both of which were cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances. But even so, ARL Comms’ association with UKTI DSO served to establish the company’s credibility, strengthening its relationship with its new partner.
ARL Comms is currently working with TECH-TIS to launch in Nigeria in April 2013, and will follow this up with an exhibition at the Embassies, in collaboration with UKTI DSO, later in the year. The company is also working with the local corporate and education sectors in Nigeria to adapt the product to their needs.
Continuing support from UKTI
ARL Comms continues to work with UKTI to grow its overseas business, in particular in the Middle East. The company attended a UKTI master class in international business, focusing on Saudi Arabia, and other UKTI DSO events, such as a Small Business Unit’s networking event on export partnering with the United Arab Emirates. It has also met with various UKTI Regional Desk Officers to discuss specific overseas markets, and they have introduced ARL Comms to several organisations and non-governmental organisations in the region.
If we had not had the support of UKTI DSO to kick start our business in Nigeria, we would, at best, still be in discussions with TECH-TIS, rather than launching business activities.
We will be going out to Nigeria again shortly to meet specific customers for demonstrations and we expect this to lead to orders. While we are there we’ll check in with the local UKTI team. I would advise any company thinking of doing business overseas to speak to UKTI DSO, attend their seminars and get a real understanding of how the process works. I really can’t say enough about how they have helped us.