National Public Radio (NPR)

May 14, 2001
By Snigdha Prakash

Link to audio version of radio interview

Tradebuilders -- NPR's Snigdha Prakash reports on an American company called Tradebuilders. The business helps software companies based in India connect with foreign consumers via the Internet.

Bob Edwards: In this era of global trade, pairing buyers with sellers, who are often on different continents, can be a difficult task. In Bangalore, India, hundreds of computer and software firms have sprouted up in response to demand in the U.S. and Europe. Connecting with potential buyers is still hit and miss. A Washington-based company is trying to make those connections easier through the world wide web. NPR's Snigdha Prakash reports.

Snigdha Prakash: They call it a virtual trade mission. Some 25 software-related companies in India, and a similar number in the U.S., are visiting each other via the Internet. They are looking for business. Elizabeth Vazquez is President of Tradebuilders in Washington. Tradebuilders screened the companies, and set up a site that allows them to talk to one another for a month. Vazquez says each company posts information on its background, and what it is looking for.

Elizabeth Vazquez: Are you looking to sell, are you looking to buy, do you want a joint venture partner?

Snigdha Prakash: Praveen Pawadshettar has been logging on for the past few weeks. He is a business analyst at Shirvanthe Technologies in Bangalore, India.

Praveen Pawadshettar: We are an India-based company. We do not have any offices outside of India. Our main mission was to have an office maybe in the United States of America. And we felt that this was a wonderful opportunity for us to find out more about the U.S., found out about people who can help us set up an office, or find us partners who can initially do some sort of joint ventures out there.

Snigdha Prakash: Praveen Pawadshettar says he has met American lawyers and marketing experts online. They may be able to help his company, but he is waiting for the U.S. economy to improve before signing any deals. R. Baskar is Vice President of Business Development and Customer Relations at Raffles Software, also based in Bangalore. He is looking for customers.

R. Baskar: So far, we have not identified any potential customers that we can work with. Maybe the kind of companies that are participating right now, you know, are not having the kind of requirements that we may be able to service.

Snigdha Prakash: Baskar says at another time, when a different cross section of American companies participates, maybe he'll find customers for his company. Elizabeth Vazquez of Tradebuilders says, the timing of the virtual trade mission could be better.

Elizabeth Vazquez: Unfortunately, with the way the economy has turned very recently, we have found that the companies that would normally have jumped on the opportunity to outsource to India, right in this exact moment, are hesitant to spend new money on software outsourcing.

Snigdha Prakash: But Vazquez says the contacts both sides make now, will be useful when the economy picks up again. Kenneth Weiss is President of Plans and Solutions, a business consulting firm in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He is part of the virtual trade mission. He says many foreign companies look for American customers before they have analyzed the American market.

Kenneth Weiss: They tend to have several different products or services that they are offering, and they tend to look at the U.S. market as a big huge market. They don't really identify which products or services they think would have the best chance in this market. And a lot of them don't really identify what kinds of companies they want to go after.

Snigdha Prakash: Wiess is hoping to help a couple of the India companies crack the market here. Meanwhile, in Bangalore India, Praveen Pawadshettar says that the virtual trade mission has had an interesting bi-product. The Indian companies are talking to each other.

Praveen Pawadshettar: Yes, that is a funny outcome actually. We never expected that. We expected to talk to American companies. But what has happened is I have started talking to three of the Indian companies out here. And there are a lot of resources which we have in common, and where we can help each other, complement each other.

Snigdha Prakash: Praveen Pawadshettar's company will join another Indian company to bid on an American contract this week. Snigda Precahs, NPR News, Washington.

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