I have this utopian vision – some would call it a fantasy – in which American products, along with products from Western Europe and Japan, stand for quality in most consumers’ minds. In this vision, people think, “Well, if it’s made in America it’s probably going to cost a little more, but it will work better and last longer, so it’s worth the extra money.” They may also think, “And it won’t poison me or my children either.”
Given the rash of problems with Chinese goods, many American manufacturers can probably boost their sales simply by making the “Made in America” label bigger and more prominent in their packaging.
But what if your customers are giant OEMs, like the Detroit 3? What are your options if you can’t exploit the fact that consumers might just be starting to look beyond price?
Samco Machinery, a Canadian company located near Toronto, came up with an unexpected answer to this question: Sell to India.
The company, which was featured in a recent article in USA Today, specializes in custom roll forming equipment for factories. Given its product line and location, U.S. auto manufacturers were a natural market for the company since its founding in 1972. So were large construction companies. With both markets in trouble, and orders falling precipitously, the company reached out to India, with great success.
Most people don’t realize that India makes roughly $10 billion worth of auto parts annually, with that number expected to reach $25 billion in just a few years. So, while the general perception of India is a country where you can outsource software and service functions like call centers, the executives at Samco Machinery saw it as an emerging market opportunity.
Granted, Samco Machinery had a couple advantages marketing to India that not all manufacturers share. The first was metal bending technology that wasn’t available in India. The second was a large number of workers of Indian descent, including engineering VP Raj Kohli. But a $10 billion dollar market that’s expected to more than double in a few years presents a lot of opportunity, even if your technology is just a little above average, and even if you don’t have any special cultural background.
I think the real lesson here is that the people at Samco Machinery thought outside the box. They reached out to a new market that was not at all obvious, and reaped a huge reward.