Product innovation key to export success
Widespread industry recognition for having the most innovative product in the market has helped Varis–Smart Underground Communications build a global business for its communications products, and earned this Sudbury, Ont.-based company the province’s top export award.
Varis communications products improve safety and productivity for mine and tunnel operators by enabling two-way voice and data communication underground, regardless of the tunnel size or length. “We have extremely user-friendly products and a respected service record that has earned us a growing reputation throughout the world’s mining community,” explained Craig Russell who sells Varis technology to major mines in Latin America and Europe.
Launched in 1996, the company now has 12 employees dedicated to increasing Varis’ market share in underground communications. “Our strategy was to first look after the Canadian mine industry and then move into the U.S. and overseas markets,” said Russell. “Today, we are a multi-million-dollar company with exports accounting for between 60% and 70% of our revenues.”
Those exports include selling into all the major mining countries of the world, including the U.S., Mexico, Peru, Chile, Brazil, Australia, Africa, China, Turkey and Eastern European countries.
The investment for a basic system runs about $20,000, rising to $250,000 for sophisticated communications systems similar to the configuration Varis recently installed in a huge mine in Turkey. Craig noted that the innovative features in the communications products, including voice, data, video and diagnostic capability, offer immediate payback for mine and tunnel operators. He added, “Varis helps improve process flow and increases productivity.”
The company’s combined innovation and export achievements were recognized this year when Varis was presented with the northern region award for innovation at the sixth annual Ontario Global Traders Awards (OGTA) held in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. The OGTAs recognize and celebrate outstanding Ontario companies, partnerships, individuals and students who have achieved exporting success. The awards are coordinated by Ontario Exports Inc. (OEI), the export development agency of the Ontario government, with a mandate to assist Ontario’s small and medium-size enterprises begin exports and diversify their export markets.
“Winning this prestigious award has added even more credibility to our reputation and the recognition to our underground communications products,” said Russell. “We definitely consider the OGTA award a ‘seal of approval’ for our marketing efforts.”
Russell also paid tribute to the assistance Varis has received from OEI to increase exports, particularly through the company’s participation in the Ontario exhibit at trade shows in Brazil, Chile and Peru. “The biggest challenge of exporting is understanding the cultural differences of each country and how they conduct business. OEI’s international marketing consultant Maureen Angus has excellent local knowledge of the various markets and has been very valuable in introducing us to credible potential distributors and agents in these countries.”
He added: “I would urge any Ontario company looking to export for the first time or venture into new export markets to make use of all the products and services offered by OEI. They can certainly help to smooth the road to becoming a successful exporter.”
OEI provides a range of services and products. This includes the New Exporters to Border States (NEBS) program, export education and one-on-one consulting to provide market information, workshops, market contacts and export literature.
To find out more about how OEI’s service can help small and medium-size companies with their export strategies, visit the OEI website at www.ontarioexportsinc.com or call (416) 314-8200 or toll-free in Ontario at 1-877-468-7233.