“Without the assistance of UKTI, we would have had no possibility of entering the Japanese market. The language difference and Japanese script make research from the UK almost impossible”
Tim Hawes, Business Manager, Imetrum Ltd.
Fully 85 percent of Imetrum Ltd.’s sales of Video Gauge precision measuring system are already to overseas markets, so it was only a matter of time before the Bristol-based company set its sights on Japan’s high-tech sector.
And even though it is only just entering the Japanese market, in tandem with a local distributor, the company is convinced that the potential exists to make Japan a very significant contributor to its bottom line.
Tim Hawes, business manager of Imetrum, says the company’s operations are already “thriving” in France, Germany, South Korea, China, the United States and India, but that opening up the Japanese market could add to overall turnover by as much as 15 percent in the next five years.
“At present Japan is a brand new market for us with no previous trading history,” said Hawes. “After an extensive search and meeting with numerous potential distributors, we are very confident that our choice of Nippon Barnes will have a very positive effect as they already operate successfully in all our key market areas.”
Imetrum is behind the world-leading Video Gauge, a camera-based, non-contact precision measuring system for measuring strain and displacement caused by an applied load or force.
The company has developed state-of-the-art software that uses live video pictures and enables some quite extreme measurements to be made. The system measured, for example, the strain in real time on a carbon fibre that was 7 microns in diameter. A human hair, in comparison, is around 180 microns in diameter.
The system has a wide range of applications involving carbon composite materials and is used in the aerospace, automotive, research, high-tech and defence sectors, as well as being an important component of Formula One racing teams’ armouries. Getting a foothold in Japan has posed some new tests for the company, however.
“Entering Japan has been more challenging than other markets due to the language barrier and the difficulty of carrying out internet-based research to find a potential distributor,” said Hawes.
“We previously used the services of UKTI and their Overseas Market Introduction Service to successfully find distributors in France and Germany and we decided to follow the same route for Japan as it quickly became evident that it would be difficult to make any progress ourselves.”
And that tactic has paid off handsomely.
“Without the assistance of UKTI, we would have had no possibility of entering the Japanese market,” Hawes said. “The language difference and Japanese script make research from the UK into possible companies almost impossible.”
The significant cultural differences between the UK and Japan would have made direct approaches by Imetrum unsuccessful, he added.
“There is no doubt that the fees paid to UKTI have proved to be very good value for money in saving us the cost of unproductive in-country visits,” Hawes said. “The key benefit has been the quick timescale of finding a suitable distributor – around six months from start to finish.”