Cheap route to market research

COMPANIES are constantly urged to look overseas for growth, but are often put off by the cost of assessing the opportunities. Manchester Business School believes it has a solution, writes Roger Trapp. Through its international business project, companies can call on experienced professionals drawn from its MBA programme and carry out the market research that can mean the difference between expansion plans working and failing.

A particular advantage is that the cosmopolitan make-up of the course provides a range of language abilities and international contacts as well as varied management ability.

Teams taking part in the project - which has involved 400 companies around the world in its 20-year history - present a detailed proposal to the company, carry out the agreed research and provide a comprehensive report of their findings.

It is estimated that each company benefits from more than 1,500 hours of intensive research, full supervision by members of faculty and the other resources of a leading business school. The project director, Gordon Mandry, said: "For many companies, the cost of examining export or acquisition opportunities can be extremely off-putting - especially during a recession. But companies have to take advantage of such opportunities in order to thrive and expand. This scheme is one way round the problem."

He added that clients - ranging from such multinationals, as Shell, Xerox and Thorn EMI to single-product companies - often say that the research is just as good as that offered by leading international consultancies. This is because the project is an important component of the students' final year assessment.

Under the scheme, which runs from March to May each year, companies pay direct costs, plus 10 per cent. For some smaller British companies, the Department of Trade and Industry will meet part of the expense. Experience suggests that effective solutions can be produced for £10,000 to £40,000.

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