A great news came up few days ago identifying that Current Account Deficit (Difference between exports and imports) for the current fiscal quarter was reduced significantly. To be exact:
“The country’s current account deficit (cad) in the first quarter of current fiscal year declined by a huge 64 per cent mainly on the back of a 21pc reduction in the imports bill.
The State Bank’s latest data issued on Friday showed the current account deficit for July-September FY20 clocked in at $1.548 billion compared to $4.287bn in the same period last fiscal year; a decline of $2.739bn.
The reduced current account deficit is a positive omen for the government, which is struggling with slow economic growth and high inflation. However, despite massive decline in rupee’s value, the country’s exports have failed to register any noticeable increase during the period.”
(Courtesy: Dawn Newspaper
So, to improve the account deficit situation not only imports need to decrease but exports also need to increase. One way of increasing exports, which I must say the current government is seriously working at, is to encourage the export sector to take advantage of the current dollar rupee exchange which is very favorable and to address grievances put forward by exporters and provide them a well-oiled government machinery that helps them. Private sector and entrepreneurs just need the right environment and right support, they know their business and can not only capitalize on their current markets but can also explore new markets. An objective and productive dialogue need to continue taking place between the relevant ministries and exporters that follows PERT (Program, Evaluate, Review Technique) to maximize opportunities.
Pakistan’s export is currently limited to few traditional sectors and territories. To increase exports drastically not only we need to widen the list of products and services that can be exported but we also need to look for new territories which means an aggressive and progressive sales and marketing effort is the need of the day. Though established private sector exporters have their own export sales and marketing teams but knowledge and exposure of those teams is limited to their own line of products and services. Also, a new exporter does not have the means and resources to explore new market. Or even if they do, they need help and support.
That’s where the government is failing and can contribute.
Government already has a great team of people working in the commercial sections of Pakistani foreign missions abroad, specifically speaking, the Commercial Attaches working at Pakistan’s embassies and consulates all over the world. I am sure they are very knowledgeable and hard-working professionals making every effort to increase and facilitate Pakistani exports. Like any other organizations these commercial sections would be headed by few outstanding, some mediocre and some less than ideal personnel. However, a country looking for growing exports can’t afford this group to be even mediocre.
As every business organization has a sales team that bring in new business, these commercial attaches make up the Pakistan government’s export sales team. And like every successful business organization’s sales team has a tough job, so do Pakistan’s commercial attaches. A business organization may compromise on an internal function and can still survive, but no business organization can be successful if it compromises on its sales team. A low morale and low performance sales team means low business, which means low revenues which means business eventually failing. Period.
If Pakistan has a desire to increase its export hugely and quickly, this sales team of commercial attaché’s have a key role to play. And mid you, as much as Sales a rewarding field, it is a ruthless business. So, this sales team can be made more effective and productive by managing them exactly the same way as a private business organization does i.e. they should be target, territory and performance oriented, hired, tasked, monitored, rewarded and/or reprimanded based on target achievement and performance or not, no exceptions. Their activities should go beyond beating the drums of rice, mangoes, cotton and other traditional raw material exports.
Commerce Minister and relevant secretaries should assign annual export sales targets to individual attaches. These targets to be defined in terms of
- Overall $ value export achieved
- Number of new export opportunities identified
- Number of new target export products identified
- Number of opportunity papers produced for each target export product
- Number of new target importers, customers or potential customers identified
- Number of new industry sector analysis reports produced
- Number of new export inquiries generated/communicated back on a daily, weekly and monthly basis
- Number of trade shows of Pakistani products held in target territory
- Number of Pakistani trade delegations led to the target territories
- Number of foreign trade delegations’ visits arranged to Pakistan
- Number of assistances provided to Pakistani exporters
Progress should be monitored quarterly identifying variances and directions provided to improve gaps, if any. Those achieving targets should be rewarded and non-performers for two consecutive years should be replaced with more motivated, dynamic and competent resources.
However, just assigning targets and pushing the sales team to achieve the same never works. Some homework is needed to equip this team with the right information that they can use to be successful. That right information comes from working with the local manufacturers, suppliers, traders and professionals and identifying products and services where Pakistani exporter may have a competitive advantage. Local counterparts of the Commercial Attaches should be assigned targets for this activity so a regular identification of new traditional and/or nontraditional products and services continues that the foreign missions can promote.
We already have a great export web portal. Its functionality can be enhanced to assign, identify and monitor territorial export targets so everything is efficient, current, fully transparent and accessible by all.
This is not rocket science just an objective, structured and calculated approach that all other successful countries in the world follow and we also need to follow if we want to get ourselves included in the same category.
Babar Saeed email@example.com October 21, 2019
The writer is a professional marketer and engineer with good work exposure to governments, and businesses and industries in the private sector in several countries. Idea is to take the first step in adding value to anything that one gets exposed to instead of just complaining about the same.