Name: Rajiv Mistry
Company: Ascent Meditech (Mumbai, India)
Time exporting: 12 years
Export revenue: Around US$4.2mn (35% of turnover)
GTR: Tell us more about Ascent Meditech and how you started exporting your products.
Mistry: I graduated from electronics engineering and started this business in 1991 when I was 21 years old, with no work experience. In the beginning, our only product was electrical heat belts. Now, 35 years later, we have 260-odd products.
Right from the beginning our vision was to operate globally, so we made products at world-class standards. We never considered this to be a product for the domestic Indian market, but we only started exporting in 2003, because the product we sold was a very new concept at the time, which took a very long time to be accepted. Also, we started from scratch, with absolutely no experience
of marketing, so it was difficult.
Our first destination was Oman. Now we export to 33 countries in most of the Middle East market, Africa and Southeast Asia.
GTR: What challenges did you face when you started exporting, and where were you able to get support?
Mistry: It was a challenge because in 2003, India’s reputation wasn’t as great as it is now in terms of product acceptance at a global level, so we had to challenge that. But we did it slowly and steadily, country by country.
It was very difficult because in India, there is no such thing as a government department or scheme whereby we can get any guidance in terms of finding out prospective buyers in the overseas markets. You have to do everything on your own – travel to trade shows, participate in trade fairs, but all independently. There is no financial help or any other help from the government.
GTR: What role did trade finance play in the internationalisation of your business?
Mistry: We only started using trade finance for our international business two years ago. Before that we didn’t know much about the options available to finance exports, so we used a combination of our own finance and multi-currency finance we got from the local banks.
Two years ago we switched banks so we got a lot of input from our new bank in terms of how to get trade finance in foreign currency at a better rate. It was a suggestion from our bank, and they helped us understand the modus operandi because I wasn’t aware of how it worked. It made a difference for us to understand how the dynamic worked in terms of securing trade finance in foreign currency, and it has really helped us to bring down our finance costs.
We use post-shipment credit and have also used buyer’s credit to finance our imports of machinery.
GTR: Would you consider making use of non-bank financing?
Mistry: We are open to any other financing options, for example private equity, though we have not used anything else than bank finance before. Other possibilities can help you grow much faster.
GTR: In your 35-year career, would you say governmental and other support for Indian SMEs has improved?
Mistry: I see a lot of change after this new government, and things are looking positive, but the results are yet to come because it’s only been eight months since the new government has come in.