onsdag 19 september 2018

Collaboration across borders to new markets - CBHA Final Seminar

The Central Baltic Health Access program has been part of our work at Swecare for a couple of years now. This interesting collaboration with Swedish Medtech and similar organizations in Finland, Estonia and Latvia to facilitate entry to new markets for our companies, has now come to an end. More information about the program can be found below, or check the label CBHA for all blog entries relating to the program.

The program has involved 65 companies and included home market coaching, target market coaching, tailor-made market information and business missions to all four target markets: India, USA, South Korea, and Uganda. There have even been some sales - not bad considering the long lead times in life science and health care - and several partnership agreements, in addition to the MoUs between the Baltic partners and coaches and organizations in the target markets.

The seminar began with a welcome by Malin Hollmark from Swedish Medtech and Piret Hirv, our program partner from Estonia who was also the moderator of the event. The seminar consisted of presentations from a coach for each market, as well as the sharing of experiences by one or two participating companies per market.

Sachin Gaur from InnovatioCuris, Target Market Coach for India, led the discussions. He presented his recommendations under the title: ´The good, the bad and the ugly´ which was appreciated by the audience. With a population of 1.3 billion and a 90% out-of-pocket expenditure on health care, there is great need for products and services at low prices.

Pavan Asalapuram presented EMPE Diagnostics' story and how their test kits can provide rapid information about drug-susceptibility in TB patients, which simplifies and assists doctors in providing the right treatment. The product has been received with great interest in the market and he will continue to work with Sachin to enter the Indian market. Pavan listed some of the advantages of the program, such as getting exposure and valuable contacts, proper guidance and access to local authorities.

The next market discussed was USA and Nima Jokilaakso, the Swedish local coach from Swecare, presented lessons learned and recommendations for entering the market. Some conclusions were that companies must realize that competition is really fierce in the US market and that in order to succeed you need to do business the "American Way" (don't be shy), to partner with local associations in order to use their network and in-house competence, and make sure you have legal coverage "for when you get sued".

Priit Kruus from the Estonian company Dermtest, that empowers general practitioners in fighting melanoma, expressed his struggle with being a small but growing company and the difficulties in prioritizing. Rasmus Hautala from Finnish Labrotex also shared his experience from the program. Their clearly defined goal of targeting the right key opinion leaders has enabled the company to reach their desired position.

This was followed by an inspirational speech from Birgit Linnamäe, both based on her experience from assisting and preparing companies to enter the South Korean market, as well as her reflections on cultural differences. Interactions between two people can be interpreted in many ways. How people perceive things such as time, space, temperature, family, truth etc are some examples she lifted.

Thomas Lööw from Swedish company Lifeclean presented their CBHA journey which has led to the shipping of one 40 feet container full of Lifeclean disinfectants to South Korea. Thomas mentioned that the program gave Lifeclean the opportunity to be part of a group, and he now realizes how important regular contact and relationships are for the process, both between company and coach, and with partners in the target market. The South Korea part of the seminar was concluded by Julie Yi, target market coach who gave her view of the program.

The last market was Uganda, where Anna Riby from Swecare presented some defining characteristics of the Ugandan market which has a heterogeneous and less regulated structure, with stark differences between city / country, private / public, and high out-of-pocket spending. Important things to consider for market entry are to offer the relevant product for the patient segment and an adapted business model. She also urges companies to use WhatsApp as a means of communication rather than emails and to persevere - it will take time!
Nina Nilsson from Bactiguard began her presentation by discussing September 13 - World Sepsis Day. Every day, every 3rd second someone dies of sepsis. With that said, she gave her input on how Bactiguard is looking at the Ugandan market potential. She described Bactiguard's process for market assessment and distributor selection. They focus on private hospitals since their buying power is much stronger. She confirmed that the process is slow, but they have not given up hope on landing a deal in the future, as demand for high-quality health care is increasing. 
Continuous training for medical staff in infection control and use of the products will be necessary when there is a sale.

The participants were divided into smaller groups for lunch in order to discuss and agree on recommendations for the CBHA team with regards to the program structure, coaching, and common challenges.

After lunch, the group discussions were summarized and the common-thread for all four markets seem to be the advice that a company wanting to access the market has to be willing to spend time onsite – with potential partners – sending occasional emails is not enough. Companies should consider their own resources, collaboration is key, and the local coaches invaluable. Also, it is important to spend time to “teach the coach” – the target market coach needs to understand your needs, your products, and your offer. Plan regular meetings with the both target market coaches and local coaches.

Before bidding farewell, Memoranda of Understanding with partners in the US market were signed by the partners on this side of the Atlantic. The American partners, the Commonwealths of Maryland and Pennsylvania and target market coach Bob Anthony, will sign during a ceremony which is part of the follow-up business mission to the US in a couple of weeks.

The last activity of the program will be a follow-up mission to India, organized by Swecare with the support of InnovatioCuris, after which this segment of the program will be wrapped-up. However, we will continue developing the contacts and networks that the project has resulted in and the Baltic partners have agreed to apply for a second phase, covering new markets, for which the input from the final seminar will be invaluable. So even if this was the Final Seminar, we hope that it will only be one step in the ongoing collaboration with partners in the Baltics and in target markets, so that we can support companies in reaching those distant markets!

CB Health Access program was initiated in 2016 between Estonian, Finnish, Latvian and Swedish organizations to support entrepreneurship in health technologies. The program has facilitated the entry of Estonian, Latvian, Swedish and Finnish health, med and bio- tech companies to distant markets – South Korea, USA, India and Uganda. CB Health Access provided the companies with an introduction of the target market, individual coaching both from the home country and from target market experts, market information, business missions, and support in identifying and contacting potential partners. The program has had a strong focus for the companies to achieve sales in the chosen market. The program is financed by the Central Baltic Interreg Program.

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