Exporters' information requirements : the role of competitive intelligence in the export promotion of extruders
Export-led growth is important for a number of reasons. At a macro-economic level, it can create profit, allowing a country to balance its finances and manage its debt. Export-led growth can also lead to higher productivity and job creation. At a micro-economic level, exports and export-led growth lead to higher competitiveness and business growth. From an exporter’s perspective, however, participation in the global economy and export to new foreign markets bring with them the challenge of acquiring the required knowledge of an unknown market. Relevant information gathered has to be subjected to analysis and interpretation before it can be applied to strategic business decisions regarding the company and its market. This study proposes that Competitive Intelligence (CI) be used as an instrument to determine the types of export information that exporters require, as it focuses on exporters’ information requirements and enhances their competitiveness. The increasingly competitive business environment places increasing demands on Trade Promotion Organisations (TPOs) to make better use of resources available in order to tailor products and services to the needs of exporters. TPOs are amongst the main sources of information and export assistance for exporters. Other export information sources include publications and a variety of human sources. The assistance of TPOs can take the form of various export-promotion instruments, such as market research, trade fairs and business introductions. TPOs face various challenges, including that of scarce resources. Therefore, such resources must be utilised optimally and in order to achieve efficiency, Realistic Export Opportunities (REOs) need to be prioritised. This study stresses the importance of export diversification and the export of manufactured goods. Export diversification brings its own challenges including the question of which products to promote iii for export. The application of a Decision Support Model developed by Cuyvers et al. (1995:173) for South Africa identified a number of REOs. Amongst these was the export of South African manufactured extruders to Tunisia. Against the background of the importance of export growth, the types of information that exporter’s use and the sources of such information were determined by means of a survey of extruder manufacturers, TPOs and users of extruders. With the export potential of extruders to Tunisia as an REO as focus, a market study was conducted using the case study research method. Results of the survey indicate that the only type of information that extruder manufacturers as potential new exporters in South Africa seek on a continuous basis is competitor information, specifically pricing information. However, the findings indicate that this is not typically the type of information supplied by TPOs in South Africa. Furthermore there is no evidence that extruder manufacturers have processes in place to monitor markets and competitors, or to identify key types of information. Concerning the case study, it was found that there is indeed a potential market for extruders in Tunisia and that the industries in which extruders are typically used are significant and growing. It was however also found that there are high trade barriers and high market concentration. Therefore, in terms of an export-promotion strategy for TPOs, an offensive export promotion strategy is proposed. In terms of further research, this study points to a need for research of this nature to extend to the wider capital equipment industry. It is further recommended that market profiles of the markets that show the most potential for specific products produced and manufactured in South Africa as evident from the results of Rossouw, Steenkamp, Viviers and Cuyvers (2010) be compiled.