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The CBI’s (Centre for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries) decision to focus on high-tech medical devices is paying off 

When the CBI launched its export development programme for medical devices in 2001, the consultants involved made the unlikely decision to focus on high-tech products as well as less sophisticated ones. Within a year, at the Medica 2002 trade fair in Dusseldorf, Germany, that proved to be the injection the programme needed. At Medica 2003, results were even better. The combined export turnover of the participants since the programme began is about Î33 million and rising. Medica 2004 is coming up in November. 

Medica 2003 was attended by 26 companies from India, Indonesia, Thailand, South Africa, Jordan, Egypt and Tunisia as well as BSO from South Africa called Acom, which represented the South African medical sector. The product line the exhibitors offered the European medical market ranged from a simple plaster to a stereo tactic guiding system for neuro -surgery. By the end of the fair, over 1,600 people had shown serious interest. “Most of the visitors we invited were impressed and stayed a long time at the CBI booth”, says consultant Leendent Santema. “Some big players in the wound-care market, for instance, visited our manufacturer of ceramic wound care products from South Africa, because the medical applications of this product are so numerous and the material is suitable for all wounds. Some other visitors had already visited our participants in their home country and numerous reverse visits have been made or planned. The variety as well as the high quality of the products confirmed to me that an intensive approach of the right markets will boost turnover tremendously. The wound care market is one example.” Santena also observes that matchmaking between participants showed that even so-called closed markets can be opened. 

Mixed Results 

After Medica 2003, the participants were busy with follow up activities sending product samples, quotations and documentation. Results of this have been mixed, says Santema. “Some potential buyers have responded positively, but a lot of contacts didn’t lead to anything. When we called or visited some of them to ask why they backed out, we were given the usual reasons: products didn’t meet their requirements or were too expensive, competition from China prevailed, or they found another supplier with better conditions. We are aware of these factors. One has to face them.” 

The mixed results go to show that ‘one good contact is better than ten bad ones’, says Santema. “On the other hand, the contacts that did work out were very profitable and led to solid orders.” 

Those participants that attended Medica for the second or third time in 2003 discovered again that follow up, whether it results in stacks of orders or not, is essential after a trade fair. Says the consultant, “the second and third time participants saw an overwhelming increase in turnover.” 

Exporters meet end-users at a medical conference 

Trade fairs aren’t the be-all and end-all of the export business. Three highly specialised participants in the CBI’s export development programme for medical devices will be trying their luck one level higher; at a specialised medical conference. 

The three companies are all specialised in the field of ophthalmology or the science of the eye. Because of their expertise, the CBI advised them to participate in an upcoming international conference for eye specialists in Paris, France. “The difference between a fair and conference is that at a conference you meet the end-user”, says consultant Leendert Santema. “The knowledge we acquire at the conference will give us a good idea of the acceptance of the products in question. If it goes well, we may sign up for other specialised medical conferences in the fields of orthopaedics, wound care, intensive critical care or haemodialysis.”