Polyglot Group has been doing business with international & multicultural companies based in more than 50 countries all around the world for over 20 years.
In celebration of these partnerships, we will be promoting bilateral trades by interviewing some of the key players. Keen to know more about the current challenges faced by the countries we are representing such as Latin America, Europe, Asia & the US, we are thrilled to share our interview with Teresia Fors, Director of the Swedish Australian Chamber of Commerce (SACC).
Could you please introduce your organisation?
The Swedish Australian Chamber of Commerce (SACC) was established in 1911, making it the second oldest business chamber in Australia. The SACC is a not-for-profit volunteer-based organisation, and as such, is entirely funded through organisations joining the chamber, plus our membership fees. At large, the chamber is sought by individual members as well as corporate members for networking opportunities.
What type of opportunities can you offer Swedish companies looking for new business opportunities in Australia?
We offer our members the opportunity to network and establish business contacts in the Australian market. We invite our members to come to our regular activities, such as seminars and networking drinks. Overall, we offer our members the opportunity to present their company to the wider business community in order to facilitate exposure and entry into Australia’s market.
Networking opportunities are also offered through the new Team Sweden project. Team Sweden is a network of government authorities, agencies and companies all working in different ways to promote Swedish exports abroad. Around the world, Swedish embassies work with Swedish promotion organisations and chambers of commerce to create local Team Sweden groups. In Australia, Team Sweden is represented by the Embassy of Sweden, Business Sweden and the Swedish Australian Chamber of Commerce (SACC).
What do you believe is the organisation’s main accomplishments since you became involved?
I officially joined the chamber in 2011. Since that time, I have seen the chamber become significantly more active, as our number of members have grown alongside us. As such, I have noticed a much larger number attending and engaging with our various activities. The chamber has certainly grown, which I believe is one of our biggest achievements, and something we continually aspire to further develop.
Do you have a typical type of member with a common motive, or do receive interest from a broad range of Swedish companies?
We have a mix of both corporate members as well as individual members. Of course, each member joins SACC for different reasons.
Our corporate members are often Swedish startups which have expanded to Australia quite recently. However, not all of these corporate members are new to Australia; we also have members which are well-established. These large corporations come to SACC in their ambition to connect with the other Swedish businesses here in Australia.
Overall, our members are greatly varied – they can range from individual members, to very small startups, to SMEs, all the way through to large corporations. SACC believes that our ability to offer helpful opportunities to such a range of the community are one of our main strengths.
In general, do you feel like you have reached out to most of the Swedish companies in Australia, or do you feel there’s still quite a few potential prospects?
The SACC strives to maximise exposure and offer our help to as many companies as possible. In saying this, I am certain that many more connections await us.
As the SACC roots are in Sydney, reaching out to wider Australia is one of our current ambitions. As part of this, we opened a Melbourne chamber in 2015. To further this, we are also looking to extend to Brisbane very shortly as well.
Expanding our reach is an ongoing goal which we will continue to aspire for as we grow.
You mentioned that you have quite a lot of events and activities for the company. Are the events co-hosted, or do you actively involve other companies in some other ways?
Yes, the events are sponsored by a member, meaning we work with this sponsorship partner to create the event.
To further involve businesses, the SACC also hosts company visits. In such events, the company receives the opportunity to introduce their organisation to our various other members. As we appreciate the challenges of being new to the Australian market, we will often coordinate a company visit with the opening of a new office, or a similar inaugural event. At large, The SACC’s support and involvement of businesses takes a number of different forms.
How do you perceive the Australasian region in general regarding its regulations, market trends as well as geography of business for Swedish companies?
The scope is vast, and the dynamics of the Australasian region cannot be adequately summarised. However, as a general observation, I believe Australia offers a reasonably accessible gateway for businesses to expand. If a business has good partners, local networks and knowledge of reputable professional services, they should not encounter too many barriers when aiming for Australia’s shores. This is evident in Austrade’s investment and active pursuit for business opportunities and Australian exports.
Of course, this circumstance will differ depending on the industry in question, but I believe Australia has quite a welcoming market.
What would be the typical steps that Swedish companies undertake when coming to Australia?
In bringing a business to Australia, I believe the initial contact would usually be with Business Sweden in Australia. Business Sweden is a great place to seek assistance in establishing a business in Australia. Not only does Business Sweden provide good market analytics, but it also provides introductions to potential local business partners. In addition, Business Sweden offers the possibility of utilising business support offices. This initiative offers new start-ups or companies looking to set up business in Australia the opportunity to rent a hot desk in Business Sweden offices.
What about Sweden’s business culture — what are the similarities or the differences to the Australian one?
Whilst it is not possible to provide one conclusive answer, I do believe there are not a large number of differences between Scandinavian business culture and that of Australia. Both are quite egalitarian with flat structures and open communicative styles.
If I were to name a difference, I would say Scandinavian ways of business are slightly more formal than the Australian norms, although I see this difference as quite a small one.
In which industries or sectors of Australian market do you see opportunities for Swedish companies?
From observing our own various members, I believe that the professional services sector and the technology industry receives a lot of venture. The development of the engineering sector is also evident in the mining industry.
What are the main challenges for Swedish companies entering Australia today?
There there are many different challenges to overcome and navigate. I believe becoming familiar with the local laws – especially surrounding imports – is a crucial step to overcoming what could be a significant challenge.
This is especially important for Swedish companies, as the geographical location of Australia poses an entirely new challenge for exporting products. As Sweden’s largest export market usually lies in the rest of the EU countries, Swedish companies need to grapple with the new time periods in transporting to Australia, as well as the different legislative market.
I believe careful planning and research is key to overcoming such challenges. With services such as those offered by Business Sweden, these hindrances can be easily overcome.
What do you think would be the potential of a Free Trade Agreements between Sweden and Australia?
There is always an interest in discovering new markets, and small countries with typically domestic markets like Sweden are particularly interested in opportunities overseas. Of course, a Free Trade Agreement would make it easier for companies to trade. So, I believe it would greatly appeal to Sweden’s interests.
A Free Trade Agreement would open a greater flow of people and investment between the two markets, so for Sweden, it would promote further trade with Australia, and vice versa. I believe it would be a positive step in the prosperous business exchange between Australia and Sweden.
In creating our Bilateral Trades Down Under Series, we would like to thank Teresia Fors for taking the time to provide such an insightful interview.