Posted on 10/3/2018

Thinking of exporting? My First Trade Mission with Automation Alley

Cynthia Hutchison

Since working for Automation Alley, I have been well aware of the success and popularity of our trade missions. Our marketing team has to constantly update the materials that tout “more than half a billion in exports” and more recently, “over $1 billion in exports”. This translates into over 5,000 jobs created in Michigan. It is quite an accomplishment! I’m just back from our trade mission to India and my participation gave me insights we don’t often write about. 

From the day I signed up, I was coached, guided and assisted. I thought this was because of my role at Automation Alley, but soon realized this is how every trade mission participant is treated. “Do you have a Visa for India? Need help applying? Did you get your shots? Let me send you the address and phone number of a nearby international medical provider.” 

The pre-mission meetings at Automation Alley had a similar feel. Meet your traveling colleagues. Meet, via Skype, your Team India Global Services (TIGS) representative on the ground. Pick up the packet with your name on it. With nine companies going to India, each had different schedules based on their needs. Accordingly, packets were customized for individual itineraries, including every in-country flight ticket. “Those coming in Saturday may join a Sunday expedition to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. Leaving early? A car will pick you up. Staying a few extra days, your driver will take you to your next destination.”

So, this is how I found myself in India. A country of over 1.3 billion people but with a warmth from everyone we met and a solid business foundation for each meeting. I learned that most of our participants had some type of channel partner or India representation, at the suggestion of Automation Alley’s international leadership. Our international team set up a WhatsApp for the group and each subgroup. When I landed with just two others in Chennai, I had the name and car number of my driver through a separate WhatsApp group just for the three of us. There were courtesies in India that made me feel pampered. When checking into hotels, they simply asked for my business card and signature and they filled out my paperwork for me. Simple, but it made me feel like even more than a guest at their hotel. 

The Embassy strolling dinner traded pomp and circumstance for genuine interest and introductions from both our American Department of State team and their Indian counterparts. Without the support of the MEDC and Automation Alley, this would not have been our experience. The guidance we give, the appointments scheduled on behalf of member companies, the side introductions and the logistics which enabled us to be on time (or close!) for as many as 20 formal business meetings in a week are just not possible without a team like Noel, Lisa and Eriola. Their relationships around the world, in this case with Vikram Kohli of TIGS, elevate each participant before we step foot on the plane in Detroit. The Indian businesses are respectful of us on reputation alone - we have to take it from there. I have returned with two solid international strategic relationships that are sure to increase revenue between our nations. 

In short, I was able to focus on my mission: increased partnership agreements, because every other element of the trip was planned, orchestrated, triple checked and facilitated for me by the teams in the US and India. My mind wasn’t cluttered with concerns; rather, I was allowed to focus on the projects I had for proposals. This is why the MEDC sponsored Automation Alley trade missions have generated over $1 billion in export sales. (That number may be going up again soon!) When you travel with us, all you need to do is sell your product.

About the Author

Cynthia Hutchison | Automation Alley

Cynthia Hutchison is Automation Alley's Senior Director, responsible for managing Automation Alley’s membership portfolio and enhancing the overall member experience. Cynthia also leads Automation Alley’s Government Affairs Committee. Prior to joining Automation Alley, Cynthia founded Band of Angels, an international outreach organization dedicated to helping individuals with Down Syndrome reach their full potential. Cynthia was named Michiganian of the Year by the Detroit News in 2007. In November 2006, Woman’s Day Magazine named her one of 9 national Women Who Inspire Us, an award that recognizes extraordinary women who push themselves to exceptional limits.


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