Market Access Programs: Adding Dimensions to Accelerators
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Over the last few years, increasingly, entrepreneurs are building companies, with a vision to scale globally over a period of time. Companies that have gone onto do this expansion successfully, have first captured their 'home' market by establishing a product market fit, working on their customer acquisition and retention formula, getting their pricing strategy right etc., and once they have scaled successfully, they start looking at new strategic markets (geographic or industries), with an aim to increase their overall market share and revenues.
Getting into a New Industry or Geography
It may not be a thumb rule to their existence but, founders that really see a potential and a natural fit to lend their product to new industries or geography, backed by a hungry team, will definitely go for the jugular.
Sounds easy? Well, it isn't. Getting into a new industry or geography isn't as simple as it may sound - even if you've scaled well in your home market. Every market and every industry has its nuances, and it isn't easy to know it from the outside. So, how does one overcome this?
If you're open to burning money, one can hire a consultant for mid to long term but, in all likelihood it is an expensive proposition. Likewise, having a satellite office for market development is an option but, again if you're hiring someone as your first employee, in a new market, you're investing more than just the salary component. Since it isn't an overnight decision, this won’t be a short term investment - without any guarantee of success.
Market Access Programs
Here in comes the benefit of 'Market Access Programs'. More often than not, market access programs are fully or partly funded by Governments, and targeted at high-potential companies. Market Development / Market Access Programs play a critical role in international trade development and bilateral relations. These programs work both ways, inbound and outbound.
Inbound programs are largely to attract hi-potential and growth stage companies from other international markets to 'showcase' what's in-store in the host city/country. These programs would typically cover introductions to the local ecosystem, and follows a programmed structure that allows you to make valuable connections, which otherwise may take some time to navigate around. Inbound programs help companies in site selection, scouting local talent, business opportunities etc; and at the same time it helps attract valuable foreign direct investment that's linked to local job creation. Many governments, at the Federal/Provincial (State/Central) levels, operate these funded programs, as calls for applications or competitions.
Outbound programs are for furthering the growth of domestic companies to international markets, and thereby increasing quantum of trade from the country of origin. International growth of companies eventually brings back benefits to home country in several ways. From a startups perspective, being on a Government funded market access program, opens key doors and enables connections at a higher level, helps profile the company better. Again, these programs are operated under calls for applications, whereby a representation of companies with best chances to succeed, are funded for the program. Such program operate in isolation and provide some funding, to cover basic market development costs as a percentage of overall expenses, or by funding a delegation that consists of a few selected companies.
Government Funded Market
Startups, and particularly growth stage companies with international aspirations, should keep looking out for such Government funded market development programs, as it gives an instant and tremendous boost to your efforts. It opens up doors that otherwise take time to crack open.
Govts, startups, investors, corporate customers in India and globally have realised the potential of a well designed market access programmes and they are working with established names in the industry to build customised market access programmes both inbound and outbound.
At Zone Startups, this is a unique component of what we have built locally over the years, and leveraged it for international tech startups looking to enter the India market. We have designed several such market access programmes for startups from Canada, Australia, the UK and interestingly, a domestic market access program for Kerala startups. International startups are now getting ready for an India debut and vice versa. India focused Market access programs are the bridge which will enable this cross border expansion.
Accelerators and Their Role
Accelerators are massive ecosystem enablers, and an integral part of economic development brought about through entrepreneurship. Many of them don't realise their true potential, and roles that an accelerator can play within the gambit of its overarching vision and mission.
Companies expanding into a new market are nothing but 'demographic startups' i.e, they face the same challenges if one were a first-time entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs go to accelerators largely for validation, mentorship, industry connects and investor access. Accelerators also lend credibility and legitimacy to startups, provided they themselves are well established and are a known name in the ecosystem. These are the exact missing links that a demographic startup will come across in a new market, and accelerators are best cut out to help them, and ease these companies into the market, helping them take a 'go' or 'no-go' call.
More so, since the sustainability of accelerators is always questioned, globally - such unique programs leveraging an existing network, also add a new revenue stream to accelerators and help towards the goal achieving sustainability. Additionally, by developing such programs, an accelerator adds more value to its existing ecosystem, by nurturing opportunities to collaborate.