Disaster shelter manufacturer Extremis Technology says Asian markets will be key to expansion
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A disaster shelter manufacturer is taking steps to grow its presence in Asia as it ploughs on with what it hopes will be its first profitable year.
Extremis Technology, which manufactures humanitarian shelters, is aiming to broaden its team of international franchisees in the eight countries of the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) bloc.
It is already making in-roads in member states Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan, using a franchisee business model to keep operational costs down.
The Future 50 company was one of 30 SMEs to be named in CommonwealthFirst's third cohort of Commonwealth export champions, an accolade which chief executive Julia Glenn believes will boost its global profile and expand its networks.
'That means the whole commonwealth is open to us as a market and it provides us with a stronger brand,' she said.
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'We get people from all over the world wanting to sell our product but we have no way of vetting them. It is difficult to get a picture of how well capitalised and collateralised a company who approaches us is.
'The commonwealth initiative will give us trusted introductions because there has already been due diligence done on them, and it will help us to find the end customer as well.'
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In August 2016 the company signed its first Indian franchisee, based in Jaipur, to manufacture and trade the shelters across India. This firm has now set up three factories around the country.
It was followed by a second £150,000 deal with Gold Roof to make the portable shelters in Pakistan, finalised in March.
Following these successes the firm hopes to sign two or three more licensees this year.
Extremis' manufacturer, Rowlinson in Thetford, is currently making a demonstration model to be sent to Afghanistan.
Ms Glenn said: 'We are working with the Afghan Chamber of Commerce to get in there. That is quite far advanced. About 40% of young males in Afghanistan are unemployed. If we can get in there we are helping to stimulate growth in employment.'
Extremis now makes two modular shelters – HuSh 1, a standard cube, and HuSh 2, which can also fold into a triangular shape to provide stability in winds of up to 200mph.
Ms Glenn said operating through foreign franchisees has introduced the company to new uses for its products, for example as police commissioner check points and on-site accommodation for forestry commission staff.
'On the ground these people understand their markets intimately and intricately,' she said.
As Extremis does little trade with Europe Ms Glenn is confident about its post-Brexit future, but said more government help was needed in trading arrangements with the Commonwealth.
She added: 'For this country to be competitive in a business landscape the help for SMEs needs to be much better.'