HSBC awards provide Canadian businesses much need visibility

HSBC Bank Canada is hosting a series of awards to celebrate Canadian companies that have made “a real difference” in taking Canadian products and services to foreign markets, the bank announced Aug. 23.

The HSBC International Business of the Year Award will honour one small to medium sized business and one large enterprise. There will also be awards for firms selling products and services in the Asia-Pacific and Latin America regions.

“The Asia-Pacific and Latin American regions are two of the fastest growing regions in the world,” according to Sue Hutchison, senior vice-president for commercial banking at HSBC.

Taking part in the event offers a lot of opportunities for local SMBs to highlight their company, said Hutchison.

“Participants will benefit from an extensive publicity program that includes both written and video profiles of their companies,” the Vancouver-based Hutchison told ITBusiness.ca.

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She said the profiles will appear on HSBC’s Business without Borders Website and on print in the Canadian Business Magazines.

Companies may apply to be considered for these awards between Aug. 23 and Dec. 31. Application forms and eligibility rules are available online at the Business without Borders website.

  • The HSBC International Business of the Year Award will recognize two companies: a small-to-medium enterprise with sales between $2.5 million and $30 million, and the other a large enterprise with sales in excess of $30 million. You will be judged for your achievements in global growth with your overall business strategies, how you have leveraged international opportunities and how you achieved growth from those opportunities.
  • The HSBC Award for Leadership in Selected Regional Markets honours two companies selling into two of the world’s fastest-growing regions. One award will go to a firm conducting business in the Asia Pacific region and another award to a firm trading in Latin America.

Visibility and financials, major SMB challenges

Hutchison said SMBs make up the bulk of Canadian businesses but it is very unfortunate that visibility and publicity remain a major challenge for these companies.

“SMBs typically are under financial and personnel constraints that prevent them from launching extensive marketing campaigns like those of larger businesses,” she said.

Many SMB owners are also frequently too focused on developing their products and services to bother with financial planning, she added. For instance, Canadian companies entering foreign countries often need help in dealing with: foreign tax regulations, foreign exchange rates and dealing with foreign markets.

Canadian e-Reader maker expresses interest

Contests like this can be beneficial for many SMBs, according to Michael Tamblyn vice-president for content sales and merchandise for Toronto-based Kobo Inc., maker of the Kobo e-reader.

Grabbing opportunities to market its product and services abroad is a major element is Kobo’s success, Tamblyn told ITBusiness.ca

“Gaining access to markets outside the Canadian border is a great opportunity for almost any Canadian company,” he said.

The Canadian e-reader has received a tough reception in the United States, with one reviewer describing it as evoking “something circa 1994.” But it is competing in many other markets around the world too.

“Among, Kobo’s chief challenges were providing access to our extensive library of e-books to a wide variety of mobile devices and e-readers,” he said.

Tamblyn explained that “Kobo is primarily an e-book content provider rather than a device manufacturer.”

Kobo provides content for multiple devices such as BlackBerry, iPhones, iPads, and other e-readers and laptops. It has managed to make headway in Europe and Asian markets as well.

Marketing abroad requires strategic alliances

Tamblyn says success in foreign markets often requires establishing strategic alliances.

Kobo gained not only funding but also distribution assistance for some of their partners abroad. “Our investors saw the merits of our product and not only backed us financially but also provided distribution assistance,” he says.

Kobo relies on distribution help from Indigo Books in Canada, Borders in the U.S., the Red Group in Australia and New Zealand and the Chung Kong Holdings Ltd. in Asia.

Despite alliances with much larger enterprises, Tamblyn said SMBs like Kobo have a decisive advantage over many big businesses.

“Being small means information moves faster through the organization enabling leaders to make faster decisions and deploy resources faster,” he said.

The awards will be presented at a gala event to be held in Toronto in May 2011.

Nestor Arellano is a Senior Writer at ITBusiness.ca. Follow him on Twitter, read his blog, and join the IT Business Facebook Page.

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