Wanna be a foreign trade expert? - Hindustan Times

Wanna be a foreign trade expert?

Hindustan Times | BySyed Amir Ali Hashmi, New Delhi
Jun 23, 2010 10:08 AM IST

With the explosion in international trade, thanks to the globalisation phenomenon, a career in foreign trade is a lucrative option. Syed Amir Ali Hashmi explores the career option.

Today, we live in a globalised environment. And to survive in today’s highly competitive environment, it’s a must for companies to have expertise in foreign trade. Interested candidates can, therefore, explore career options in different domains such as international marketing, international supply chain and logistics, warehousing and inventory management, export documentation, currency trade, etc.
The challenge of meeting the requirements of global clients is very exciting. Manab Majumdar, assistant secretary general and head, Foreign Trade and WTO Division, FICCI, New Delhi says, “In this era of globalisation, the significance of foreign trade cannot be exaggerated. It is widely believed that trade is a critical engine of growth. Working in foreign trade gives me an opportunity to stay very close to policy-making, which makes this job really interesting.”

Sanjay Budhia, chairman, CII National Committee on Exports and managing director, Patton Group says, “India is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. The projected growth rate is eight-to-nine per cent, whereas Western economies are facing turbulent times. China is also facing internal problems due to overheating of the economy and creation of asset bubbles. This makes India the most favoured and exciting destination for global companies. These companies are looking for experts in foreign trade who can leverage their global experience. Also, Indian companies which have expanded their operations globally through acquisitions and mergers need foreign trade experts to run their business. On top of it, India’s exports have grown by more than 30 per cent in the last quarter. Hence, there are immense opportunities in foreign trade for prospective candidates.”

Many businesses are looking to enter international markets, so careers in international business are expected to grow at a faster rate. “From banks, to manufacturing firms to government agencies, almost all industries need people with a background in international business. Job opportunities are available in various industries such as shipping lines, freight forwarders, international courier companies, export houses, banks and agencies dealing with currency trading etc,” says Budhia. “Since most of the international trade is done through port and aviation, these professionals can work in airlines, cargo and global shipping companies. Foreign direct investment and economic development agencies also require these professionals. Moreover, they can also join the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors,” he adds.

Apart from the curriculum, one has to be familiar with various aspects of foreign trade such as trade logistics, trade finance, movement of foreign exchange, shift in composition and direction of worldwide trade, product-wise changes, etc. “One has to have in-depth knowledge of the country’s foreign trade policy framework, and competitive advantages of leading traders,” says Majumdar. The difficulties one can face while in this line could be “mainly the non-availability of trade statistics in time,” he adds.

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What's it about?
. International trade practitioners need to be knowledgeable about the global trade environment, factors affecting it, rules and regulations and a host of practical
issues related to international trade. They need to stay updated on the latest market dynamics, policies and practices
. The job of a foreign trade expert is not limited to any specific segment such as marketing, documentation, shipping and packaging, or functions-related export
management, pricing, sourcing, costing, export market research, distribution, freight marketing, export finance, documentation, and foreign exchange... It is a
combination of all of the above and much more
. With the opening up of the market, global trade barriers have been knocked down. A truly global marketplace has become a reality in both the physical and
virtual realm. This has created immense opportunities in international trade. An expert has to be outwardly focused and open to adopting various strategies for
survival and growth of his or her organisation

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Clock Work
There are no fixed timings because a foreign trade expert might have to work according to various time zones.
However, there are few things that a foreign trade professional would typically do on a
day-to-day basis
9 am: Reach office
10 am: Analyse trends
12 pm: Feed actual trade negotiations; give inputs for trade policy-making, including in domestic trade
2 pm: Meet government officials, industry contacts
4 pm: Keep an eye on key agreements being signed all over the world
5.30 pm: Take stock of the day’s work and various negotiations that are taking place in various industries; plan for the next day
6 pm: Leave for home

The Payoff
. Trainee: Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 3.5 lakh per annum
. Executive: Rs 4 lakh to Rs 5 lakh per annum
. Jr Manager: Rs 6 lakh to Rs 8 lakh per annum
. Manager: Rs 10 lakh to Rs 15 lakh per annum

. Awareness of practical issues, quantitative techniques
. Good domain knowledge
. Knowledge of trade policy issues
. Customer-centric approach
. Good communication skills

How do i get there?
There are several long-term and short-term courses offered by many institutions in India.

IIFT, ISB, IIM have specialised courses in foreign trade. Postgraduate courses in international business and supply chain management offered by top management institutes are also good for candidates looking for a career in foreign trade.

There are also short-term courses on export documentation and trade procedures

Institutes & urls
Postgraduate courses:
. Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT), New Delhi and Kolkata,
. Symbiosis Institute of International Business,
. ASM’s Institute of International Business And Research, Pune
. Gitam Institute of International Business,

Pros & Cons

“Trade is a dynamic concept, and foreign trade has been around since ages. And to track it, get involved in it, and see multinational level negotiations is a fascinating proposition. Opportunities are unlimited and anybody who is a trained professional does not have to hunt for the job. Another good thing is that you are invovled in policy making. The only negative point I can think of is a hypothetical situation where the volume of foreign trade goes down and job demand comes down drastically,” says Manab Majumdar of FICCI

Demand has risen

Globalisation is the driver for growth

What does the job of a foreign trade expert entail?
The job responsibility of a foreign trade expert involves providing guidance and assistance to businesses involved in export and import of goods and services. They are typically involved in development and analysis of international trade issues and policies, which help firms engage in international marketing or perform international market research leading to identification of opportunities in foreign markets and designing strategies to enter different markets.

How has the job scenario changed in India for foreign trade experts?
The Employment Outlook Survey for the third quarter of 2010 conducted by Manpower India says that hiring activities in India are expected to reach the pre-recession levels in the coming months. The same can be said for this field. With the world becoming a global marketplace, and all types of businesses seeking to expand their operations across national borders and into the world, the demand for foreign trade experts has increased. Accordingly, the country is witnessing an increase in the number of students opting for international trade courses being offered by various universities and management institutes.

What challenges do foreign trade professionals face today?
The global market is extremely dynamic in nature and hence a foreign trade expert must always possess the latest information concerning foreign market trends since clients and businesses depend on this knowledge when making decisions concerning business opportunities or investments in another country. Experts must always be familiar and updated with the trade laws of the countries they are planning to explore.

Can one get a job abroad?
Yes, individuals specialising in international trade can get a job abroad in the capacity of an expert on WTO issues, trade policy specialist, marketing communication specialist, commodities operations analyst, market data specialist and product application specialist.

What kind of work experience or certification helps one land a good job?
International trade programmes are of both graduate and postgraduate level and are offered by institutes across India. They groom candidates for careers in international trade. To gain expertise in this field one should have demonstrated the application of knowledge of international economic and political factors influencing the flow of goods and services between countries; the impact of government policies and regulations, business conditions, and market structures on international competitiveness; or of problems and techniques relating to the sales and marketing of goods and services in world markets.

Which industries require foreign trade experts?
The requirement for foreign trade experts exists at the advisory levels in public sector undertakings with foreign trade operations, export promotion councils, international departments of multinational companies, and international trade regulatory bodies.

Dr Amit Mitra, secretary general, FICCI As told to Syed Amir Ali Hashmi

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