NEW SA MARKETING & DISTRIBUTION HUB IN EUROPE?

SA industry stalwart aims to set up shop in Mallorca

Former Robertson & Caine managing director Baren Smit has outlined a possible game-changer for South African marine manufacturers – a one-stop shop in one of the world’s boating hotspots. Smit is inviting South African manufacturers and suppliers to partner with him in his new venture which, if all goes according to plan, could be up-and-running later this year.  “The main aim is to try and push South African product,” Smit says of the initiative. “There are big benefits for South African companies if I can open the market for them and get more exports through Europe.”

Smit’s plan is to establish a multi-purpose business hub to provide custom solutions and services for a range of clients, everything from customer relations to marketing and e-commerce. Smit would tailor make business strategies as per client needs and specifications. He says an on-site presence in one of South Africa’s key export markets would expand business networks and improve customer relations.  “I spent three years investigating starting a business in Europe, with a particular focus on Mallorca,” he explains. “I’ve already built up quite a number of good contacts there.”

“SA customers would benefit immediately from improved customer relations and clear communications,” he says. “If you are not there at the coalface then people don’t know about you.”

In 2020 Smit spent two weeks speaking to lawyers and other stakeholders with a view to actioning his plan.  He briefly considered buying an existing business before realising this would be impractical. His investment proposal then took a backseat during the pandemic.

However the aftermath of the pandemic could yet prove advantageous to a new hub venture due to the expanded post-pandemic boating landscape opening up opportunities for new players. Smit believes the pandemic has disrupted traditional business channels, creating gaps for new business relationships. “The timing is good now that we are getting out of Covid. There’s a huge fleet out there compared to what there was two or three years ago, and it’s a more fragmented playing field now. I see an opportunity for smaller high-volume products.”

Smit also believes his diverse experience in the maritime industry could help plug gaps in business plans and service delivery. He has a background in engineering and was thrown into the deep end of boatbuilding in 1999 when he landed a contract to build 62ft catamarans for Robertson and Caine. He later served as logistics supply chain director, a role involving extensive travel and engagement with suppliers.

Representing South African interests in Europe would allow him to use his skill-set to good effect, and to everybody’s mutual benefit: “I believe there is a business case for a permanent South African presence in Europe, particularly in light of recent market growth. Now I need to hear from industry stakeholders – would this work for them,” he says.

Smit is inviting all interested stakeholders to engage him directly to flesh out the business plan.  To test the waters he has devised an initial action plan:

  1. Introduction of the concept and Request information from SA producers via the SABBEX monthly newsletter to determine their interest and needs for such a partnership
  2. Sign Non-disclosure agreements between each interested producer and myself
  3. Conduct a product competitive analysis on all products from interested parties
  4. Work closely with each producer to develop a unique distribution model and channels, together with service and pricing strategy
  5. Do a feasibility study to determine the feasibility of such a new business
  6. Provide feedback to each individual producer and agree on service delivery and pricing structures
  7. Proceed with legal/partnership agreements
  8. Register company in EU
  9. Start operations

Anybody needing more information or wishing to give feedback can contact Smit on baren@40knots.co.za

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