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The Internationalization strategy of SBPA Flight Simulators Company

In 2008, at the start of its activities, the SBPA used the credit line of the First Innovative Company (PRIME) program in order to hire consultancy and advisory services for capacity-building in the management of the firm’s leaders. By that time, even with a staff of just three people, the first steps of internationalization were outlined in the Business Model Canvas.

Initially, the SBPA didn't plan to act on the North American market due to the high concentration of competitors. However, after understanding and analyzing that the helicopter simulators manufactured were superior to those made by the North American home market, there was great interest in intensifying and directing the product towards this market.

Another important aspect for the SBPA expansion into the USA is the fact that this market is considered a global port of entry for trading with other countries in the world. Due to the requirements and specifications of the market and the trade references often required by potential customers.

Accumulation of experiences and relationships abroad

The first international contact by SBPA was through the import of the software standard for its hardware interface programming system. At that time the contact was already known through business relationships that the University itself maintained with the same supplier. At the opening of the firm, it was enough to remake the contact and create a new form of negotiation, via SBPA.

"Other international suppliers were identified before the opening and creation of the SBPA, when my partner participated in an exhibition in the Netherlands, in 2007. There it was possible to identify some potential suppliers who were exposing. In addition, the SBPA actively participates in international fairs whenever possible, already showcasing our products in fairs in Germany, France, the Netherlands, the USA, and the United Arab Emirates." (Commercial Director of SBPA).

The international participation in fairs and events occurred near the Tecnosinos, as part of an internationalization project. In 2013, the SBPA participated in a mission funded to Silicon Valley through SOFTEX, which promoted business rounds with businesspeople from American firms. Thus, the SBPA, through the support of SOFTEX-APEX, maintains contact with a commercial consultant established in the Silicon Valley itself, Apurva Chandra, to assist in the promotion of new business as well.

Focus on American customer

Many companies, when they think of internationalization, worry about what is less important, such as copyright and patent. However, this type of concern is hardly necessary, at least until the company is big and has enough visibility to the point where others want to copy it.

The SBPA, in turn, with its startup mindset, prioritized the validation of its product in the target market. In order to do this, it sought partnerships with local airports willing to put its product up for tests and validation by potential customers. In addition, instead of bothering with quickly hiring a law or accounting firm, it employed a small marketing studio in the USA. The latter is already adapting the company's brand in accordance with the specificities and cultural perceptions of American clients.

Access to the U.S. market via Partnership

In 2014, the company assembled a show-room in the airport of the city of Orlando, USA, as a commercial initiative for the dissemination of its product.

"This action was started due to a contact of an SBPA client in the domestic market, who has aviation operations with the USA, as a result, this domestic partnership was made to rent a space and send a product to the USA. The partner firm was responsible for all product disseminations commercial actions in the American market in exchange for a commissioning." (Commercial Director of SBPA).

Finally, this year, only after the concrete demand of American clients, the SBPA submitted its simulators to the licensing process for sale on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) – US aviation inspection agency, similar to ANAC, in Brazil. This concern with licensing was only raised after the development of partnerships and the validation of the product in the target market, i.e., after what really matters – the customer.

About the SBPA

SBPA Simuladores de Voo is a small company incubated in Tecnosinos, with three employees. Founded in 2008, it started its activities from the need to provide the domestic Brazilian market with nationally manufactured simulators, because until then, the equipment was imported from Europe and the USA. The company manufactures professional flight simulators for pilot training, and its main customers include air clubs and airlines, aviation and training schools for professional training of airplane and helicopter pilots. It currently has about fifty-five simulators already marketed on the domestic market and is expanding to foreign markets via USA.

The product sold by SBPA is called cockpit, known as the framework in which the pilot sits on the aircraft, in practice. The simulator brings, realistically, aspects of the performance of the aircraft. In terms of the competitiveness of the sector, the SBPA leads the domestic market, with only two competitors in Brazil that operate with different business strategies. Internationally, the competition takes place in a more representative way, in particular, the domestic market itself with European and American competitors.

* Sabrina Mendes, Master in International Studies from Sorbonne Paris III and specialist in international market intelligence from the Softex/Apex-Brasil Sector Project.
* Afonso Curcio Tomedi, master in Business Administration by Unisinos and graduated in Business Administration by Feevale.