Middle Eastern success is mounting for a Cranfield-based fluid engineering consultancy and research organisation. Now the company is targeting the Far East.
BHR Group provides a range of services for a diverse number of industries including the water, environment and power industries.
Business director Dr Yolande Herbath has tripled the overseas activity of her division in the past year with support from UK Trade and Investment (UKTI).
BHR Group used to be known as BHRA (British Hydromechanics Research Association). With over 60 years experience, BHR Group pioneered abrasive waterjet cutting technology, and its subsidiary DIAJET manufactures and sells cutting equipment for hazardous environments.
Dr Herbath heads up BHR Group’s Middle Eastern activities and has more recently been appointed chair for British Water's International Forum.
When working as the company’s commercial manager in 2007, she began to consider the vast array of opportunities for BHR Group in the Middle East. She contacted her local international trade adviser for UKTI, Anton Rudgalvis, to ascertain how the company could leverage these opportunities.
She said: “BHR Group had already been doing business in Qatar but the team had never visited the country or considered wider opportunities in the Middle East.
“After discussing this with UKTI it seemed clear that there were real opportunities for BHR Group but careful planning and research of the market with UKTI would be required in order to be successful in winning new business.”
She took BHR to the Middle East, met with more businesses in the region and found out about opportunities for her company. Dr Herbath commissioned an Overseas Marketing Introduction Service (OMIS) from UKTI. This involved carrying out initial market research about the market, which was then followed up by a visit to Qatar.
She recounts her first visit to the Gulf, which she carried out alone in 2007: “The prospect of travelling to the Middle East on my own was initially quite daunting. But I did my homework with UKTI, before embarking on the trip, so gained a solid understanding about the cultural differences and what to expect.
“For example I knew to wear an abaya at all times and not to sit in the front of the taxi. However during my first meeting I had no choice but to break the rule of women not being allowed to use lifts in public buildings. My meeting was on the seventh floor so this didn’t seem like an option at the time!”
Following this trip BHR Group went on to win new business and Dr Herbath stepped up her efforts in the Middle East. Over the past three years she has visited six countries in the region and commissioned market research from UKTI in each of these markets. This has led to considerable success with business from the Middle East making up over 70 per cent of sales in her division totalling around £1.12 million.
“The support I have received from UKTI over the past four years has been invaluable,” she says. “Our success in the Middle East would never have come so quickly if hadn’t been for the guidance received from UKTI. There’s a lot more to do – this really is only the beginning!”
Dr Herbath has now set her sight on the Far East and again, using the support of UKTI, will expand the reach of BHR into Singapore and Hong Kong.
• Photograph shows: Dr Yolande Herbath, director, BHR Group