South African e-learning company opens Europe offices
Cape Town, South Africa-based corporate learning company, Bridge People and Technology (Bridge PT), Wednesday announced the opening of offices in Italy and France.
With a total headcount of 30, the enterprise has generated a 100 per cent increase in turnover from 2002 and a 30 per cent increase in profit. Bridge PT already has an existing presence in the U.K. through a partnership agreement with an established consulting firm, and plans to establish its footprint in Europe by opening another office in Germany before tackling the larger U.S. market.
Gary Galanti, sales and marketing director of Bridge PT, comments, “E-learning is becoming a mainstream form of education internationally. As companies become more electronically-enabled, they are beginning to realize that the benefits of e-business can be extended to deliver cost-effective staff training solutions as well. SAP (AG) is a major proponent of e-business software, and Italy is the fastest growing SAP market in Europe. One of Bridge PT’s core business areas is to provide training support on SAP implementations utilizing existing infrastructures and the opening of offices in Milan, the country’s ICT hub, therefore made perfect business sense.”
Galanti goes on to say that Bridge PT already has an established presence in France, due to its long-term relationship with Unesco, an existing client which is headquartered in Paris. “We opened our French office to manage this key account and to pursue sales leads that were generated as a result of this training implementation,” he says.
Bridge PT’s long-term plans are to become the dominant e-learning software and consulting firm in SA, as well as being recognized as a major player in world markets. “Our growth thus far has been organic, and we foresee this continuing, but will consider acquisition-driven growth if the right circumstances arise,” continues Galanti.
Both offices will be managed by fellow South African and Bridge PT co-founder, Mark Bennett. Another local, Lauren Vierhaus, who was schooled in Italy and who has had international experience working for the likes of ScreamingMedia.com in the U.S., will head the sales operation in Italy.
“We are using a combination of SA Bridge PT resources and seconded staff, and hiring contract Italian and French staff in those markets to handle certain projects. In time, we will be building a permanent European staff base,” says Mark Bennett, head of Bridge PT’s European operations.
“Our plan for 2004 is to establish ourselves in both markets during the course of the year. We already have a steady prospective client base in Italy, and will be starting a pilot project at Commune di Roma (Rome Municipality) by the end of this year,” continues Bennett.
When asked what advice he can give local companies contemplating expanding internationally Bennett says, “Never approach the foreign market with the feeling that you are inferior because you come from SA, and never compete on price alone,” he says.
“We have always competed on the quality of our software as well as service offerings, and have won tenders against the big players proudly displaying our SA roots. Our European clients have responded most positively to this, due to the fact that service quality is at a premium in Europe,” he concludes.