Virtual trade mission launched by D.C.-based firm

India Abroad News Service
April 27, 2001
By Aziz Haniffa

The virtual trade mission is envisaged as helping American firms build valuable relationships with leading software companies in India, particularly those located in Bangalore.

WASHINGTON -- Tradebuilders Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based company, has launched the world's first virtual trade mission between the United States and India to take place next month.

The virtual trade mission is envisaged as helping American firms build valuable relationships with leading software companies in India, particularly those that are located in Bangalore. The company said the Web-based mission would enable participating companies to build relationships through online meetings and a videoconference on May 20. It said that already, more than 20 firms each in India and in the U.S. have registered for the virtual trade mission.

Tradebuilders said its proprietary process includes expert business facilitation and online coaching, and that American companies can use the virtual trade mission to build business relationships with Indian software developers, and identify partners for selling, outsourcing, joint venturing and investment.

Virginia Littlejohn, chairman, chief executive officer (CEO) and co-founder of Tradebuilders said: "Global markets are expanding as trade barriers come down, trade agreements multiply and e-commerce explodes. But barriers still exist -- a lack of trade knowledge and experience, the high cost of traditional trade missions, and archaic supply chains and infrastructure."

Littlejohn -- a former president of the National Association of Women Business Owners and vice president of the World Association of Women Entrepreneurs, explained that Tradebuilders helps companies go global through an Internet portal that cuts costs and reduces risks; simplifies trade and increases opportunities; offers technical assistance; develops trade capability; improves the supply chain process and creates access to finance and investment.

Elizabeth Vazquez, president and another co-founder of Tradebuilders, pointed out that "traditional trade missions focus primarily on large companies offering products. They are time-consuming and expensive -- costing anywhere from $2,500 to $15,000 -- and require a high level of trade expertise." However, she argued: "Virtual trade missions are open to companies of any sizes offering products or services, require much less time and expense -- typically $100 to $1,000 -- and assist companies with developing their trade expertise."

Tradebuilders said the it was working on this pilot virtual trade mission between India and the U.S. in coordination with the Electronics and Computer Software Promotion Council (ESC), part of the Indian government's Ministry of Information Technology; business-to-business exchange indiamarkets.com; the Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Karnataka; the Washington-based Cvent.com, headed by Reggie Aggarwal, founder of the Indian CEO High-Tech Council; and Caucus Systems.

In 1998, the founders of Tradebuilders conducted the world's first virtual trade mission involving 56 companies in Canada, Malaysia and Singapore. The mission resulted in 16 business agreements.

In an interview with India Abroad, Vazquez, elaborating on the concept, said, "It's like a sophisticated chat room, but it's facilitated. We are in the background looking for business-matching opportunities."

As an example, she said: "A lot of people are looking for representation, they are looking for strategic alliances, they are looking for supply chain people that can help them find the supplies, for outsourcing, but they want to do it in a cost-effective way without having to go into a brand- new market."

The advisory board of Tradebuilders, Vazquez said, includes trade experts from governments, corporations, associations, small and medium enterprises (SME), and alliance partners, as well as experts in target industries and regions.

One of the Tradebuilders' advisory board members is Arun Agrawal, deputy secretary general of the Delhi-based World Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, which works with a network of SME firms in 112 countries.

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