South Korea has one of the fastest growing and most hi-tech economies in the world. So it is an extremely attractive market for SMEs (small and medium sized) European companies specialising in the latest technologies.
Thanks to their expertise in ultrasonic suspension technology for non contact handling of surface-sensitive and fragile products, one German SME is now working with one of the largest hi-tech companies in Korea.
To prepare for developing their business here, the company went on three business trips organised by the EU Gateway Programme, preparation which has served them well.
Josef Zimmermann, the managing director of ZS-Handling, explained: “It meant we could increase our Korean market general turnover from zero to 25 percent within one year. Also, expanding our staff from 11 to 20. And we can address all our target industries: solar power, semi conductors and platform displays.”
“increase our Korean market general turnover from zero to 25 percent within one year”
One of the keys to success was identifying the right partner in South Korea. So Josef Zimmermann and his team worked with an agency which has been established in the country for 55 years, and has an in-depth knowledge of the hi-tech sector there.
Since 2009, 350 companies, most of them SMEs, have taken part in the EU Gateway Programme in Korea. During these week-long business trips, participants receive financial help, information about their objectives on the Korean market, and of course they met potential partners. The results are excellent.
“60 percent of participating companies find a local partner through the programme”
One of the architects of the project in Korea is Paolo Caridi, EU Delegation to the Republic of Korea, who said: “For me there are three key figures: more than 60 percent of participating companies find a local partner through the programme, half of them decide to invest in targeting the Korean market, and 25 percent of them increase their turnover thanks to the programme.”
Business opportunities in Korea are very attractive to European SMEs, and trading agreements are also very helpful according to Paolo Caridi: “We have a free trade agreement – the only one with an Asian country. This agreement has had a huge impact: from 2011 to 2013, exports increased by 24 percent, and for the first time in 15 years we have a surplus trade balance with South Korea.”
Summing up, Josef Zimmermann of ZS-Handling said, “For me, there are three keys to success: identify your market and customers, find the right partner that fits you perfectly, and be aware that it takes time to enter the market.”