Guest blog post by Dr. Albert Green, CEO of Kent Displays.
Ed note: Founded in 1993, Kent Displays, Inc. is a world leader in the research, development and manufacture of Reflex™ No Power LCDs for unique, sustainable applications including electronic skins, writing tablets, smartcards and eReaders. Improv Electronics was formed in 2010 as the consumer products subsidiary of Kent Displays. 2010 sales of its first product, the Boogie Board™ LCD Writing Tablet, exceeded forecast by 10 times. Its paperless LCD technology represents a significant opportunity to reduce global paper consumption for everyday tasks such as memos, reminders, to do lists, sketching and other writing and drawing activities.
Kent Displays is honored to be a representative on this trade mission to India. It’s only a few days into the mission, and the benefits of participating are already immeasurable. I cannot begin to express my gratitude to the U.S. Commerce Department and Secretary Gary Locke for organizing the trip and selecting Kent Displays for the business delegation.
Going into the trade mission, Kent Displays had limited focus on the India market. We considered a greater focus in the past, but decided that the upfront exploratory effort to “get the ball rolling in India” would require a commitment beyond our available resources.
By participating in the mission, we hope to gain a better understanding of its business, government and consumer dynamics. We also expect to establish relationships with business and government leaders that would help identify immediate and future business opportunities. In the final analysis, this mission is the impetus for convincing us that now is the time to explore business possibilities in India.
Having just completed the New Delhi portion of the mission, these expectations have already been met. I had several meetings with government leaders as well as large retail, consumer product and manufacturing companies. The latter is especially important because as a small company that features consumer products, there’s a premium on “shoe leather” sales activities. These meetings would have been very difficult to arrange if I had not been a member of the trade mission. The outcome of the meetings was invaluable. I gained a much better understanding of the Indian market and business environment. The business meetings helped both parties determine if a relationship could provide benefits to each company. In one meeting, I learned how appliance use and cost differs greatly in the U.S. and India. This type of knowledge is critical in developing a business strategy for products like our Boogie Board LCD Writing Tablet in the Indian market. In another meeting, Commerce department staff was able to get some critical tariff data in a very timely fashion, so we could quickly evaluate if the deal made sense. When the tariff came in higher than expected, Commerce Department staff immediately pointed out that they could advocate for American companies with the Indian government with the hope of reducing the tariff. You often hear that government is slow and responds at a snail’s pace. While true in some circumstances, it’s been a lightning response on this trip—almost like you’re working with another startup!
The New Delhi portion of the trip also included a visit to the American Embassy School. Again, this meeting was of great benefit. We have seen significant demand from U.S. schools for the Boogie Board tablet. It is a great learning aid for handwriting/arithmetic practice, drawing, homework lists, calculations, etc. The meeting at the American Embassy School helped me understand the dynamics of schools in India and if the Boogie Board tablet could be used in a similar capacity.
As the trade mission continues in Bangalore and Mumbai, I will participate in many additional meetings. I am eager to learn more about this fascinating country and its generous and hospitable people. I am confident the many meetings and relationships that form will produce substantial benefits for the both the U.S. trade delegation members, our Indian counterparts and the respective national economies.
Our deepest thanks to the hard working Commerce department staff who arranged such an outstanding, business focused trip. It shows you that the government works for companies of all sizes!