Ukraine has a high quality and high capacity ICT sector specifically in software development fields, for example, artificial intelligence, robotic process automation, cybersecurity, high-level math-based technologies, etc. It’s exactly what the rest of the world needs to know.
Frankly speaking nowadays Ukraine doesn’t do a lot of trade with Canada in ICT. Considering the fact that Canada has a huge Ukrainian diaspora (more than 1 million people), the amount of business Ukraine does with Canadian partners is relatively small.
What are the main reasons and what Ukrainian companies can do to be successful in Canada?
Even though Canada is close to the USA geographically, but methods of doing business can be considerably different from the US market. Canada is much more relationship-based. Of course, Canadian business has experience in outsourcing ICT services from other countries, but significantly less than the United States.
Canadian companies are typically a bit more sensitive to risk.
That is one of the key challenges for Ukrainian companies in finding a partner in the Canadian market. It is a strong perception among Canadian small and medium enterprises that it’s not very secure to transfer data or provide access to corporate data to Ukrainian companies. For many Canadian clients, it is common as part of a business contract with a downstream client that their data can’t cross the Canadian border or certain international borders.
In this context, Ukrainian companies have a certain job to do – to convince the Canadian business community that it’s a safe business environment. I am sure that it’s an achievable goal over time, because cybersecurity is one of the Ukrainian’s strongest ICT sub-sectors.
Ukrainian companies should be ready to invest time, money and human resources in exploring the Canadian market. They need to avoid expectations that they take a flight, visit a trade show and immediately sign a million-dollar contract with the Canadian partner. Business doesn’t work like this in Canada.
Ukrainian companies of all sizes need to do their homework, need to prepare a detailed export plan, market research, and they need to identify who is a perfect customer for them in the Canadian market.
An export plan should be based on cost, quality, customer services, and other competitive advantages – not simply “lowest price” – there are other supply markets for ICT services that will always be cheaper.
Not all Ukrainian companies realize that Canada is the second-largest landmass in the world. More than 90% of our population live no further than 100 km from the US border. The country stretches more than five thousand km from east to west. Therefore, you are not doing business in “Canada”, you are doing business, for example, in the Greater Toronto area or Halifax or Vancouver. It’s important to do your research to discover where your perfect potential customer is located.
We have technology clusters which are well-known all over the world. Such clusters are concentrated in Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo in the east, as well as in Calgary and Vancouver in the west. The Toronto-Waterloo Corridor is the second-largest IT cluster in North America (after California).
The Canadian market is rather competitive. Ukrainian companies need to be ready to compete not only with Canadian companies but also with main international outsourcing supply countries such as India, Philippines, and emerging South American markets such as Columbia.
Some Ukrainian ICT companies try to use the following strategy in negotiation with Canadians – tell me what you need, we can do all. It’s a common mistake. The only way to succeed in entering the Canadian market is to be focused and explore what it is that you are really good at – your company’s core value.
And last, but not the least: Price. Price is a factor, but there are other more significant factors in the decision-making process. Those are the quality, the expertise, the level of communication and responsiveness, and also the past experience and testimonials.
Reputation is a crucial factor.
Cost is a factor, but it doesn’t need to be 30% cost-savings. 5-10% cost-savings is enough, but it should combine with other value-added attributes. A competitive combination of these factors is what is going to win business.
From an interview with Theo Ward, CUTIS Canadian Expert, TFO Canada Trade Information Systems Specialist and Associate Consultant