Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, are defined as enterprises which: Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, are defined as enterprises which



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Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, are defined as enterprises which:

  • Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, are defined as enterprises which:

    • • Employ fewer than 250 persons and
    • • Have an annual turnover not exceeding EUR 50 million or
    • • An annual balance sheet total not exceeding EUR 43 million.


Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are a very heterogeneous group of businesses usually operating:

  • Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are a very heterogeneous group of businesses usually operating:

    • in the service,
    • trade,
    • agri-business,
    • and manufacturing sectors.
  • They include a wide variety of firms such as:

    • village handicraft makers,
    • small machine shops,
    • and computer software firms that possess a wide range of sophistication and skills.
  • Some are dynamic, innovative, and growth-oriented while others are satisfied to remain small and perhaps family owned.

  • SMEs usually operate in the formal sector of the economy and employ mainly wage-earning workers.

  • SMEs are often classified by the number of employees and/or by the value of their assets.

  • The size classification varies within regions and across countries relative to the size of the economy and its endowments. It is important to note that there is a minimum as well as a maximum size for SMEs.



SMEs are the Engine of Growth

  • SMEs are the Engine of Growth

  • SMEs are Essential for a Competitive and

  • Efficient Market

  • SMEs are Critical for Poverty Reduction

  • SMEs Play a Particularly Important Role in

  • Developing Countries





SME sector is the largest provider of employment in most countries, especially of new jobs

  • SME sector is the largest provider of employment in most countries, especially of new jobs

  • SMEs are a major source of technological innovation and new products



SMEs tend to employ poor and low-income workers

  • SMEs tend to employ poor and low-income workers

  • SMEs are sometimes the only source of employment in poor regions and rural areas

  • Self-employment is the only source of income for many poor

  • SMEs play a particularly important role in developing countries where poverty is most severe



Commodities carried or sent to another country

  • Commodities carried or sent to another country

  • To ship a product outside a country or region



EXPORTS act as a “PULL” factor to bring the SME’s together because in domestic market they are already competing with each other but in exports they need help / advise !

  • EXPORTS act as a “PULL” factor to bring the SME’s together because in domestic market they are already competing with each other but in exports they need help / advise !



A tool to increase SME exports

  • A tool to increase SME exports

  • SMEs usually have difficulty exporting to foreign markets: they may lack the necessary knowledge and financing, may not meet foreign regulatory requirements, or may produce products in quantities or quality that are not adequate for foreign buyers, among many other potential problems. However, these problems can often be overcome through cooperation among SMEs. By combining their knowledge, financial resources and contacts within an export consortium, SMEs can significantly improve their export potential and reduce the costs and risks involved in penetrating foreign markets.



An export consortium is a voluntary alliance of firms with the objective of promoting the goods and services of its members abroad and facilitating the export of these products through joint actions.

  • An export consortium is a voluntary alliance of firms with the objective of promoting the goods and services of its members abroad and facilitating the export of these products through joint actions.

  • Members of a consortium realize that cooperation must prevail over competition in order to access key markets and the latest technology.

  • An export consortium can be seen as a formal medium- to long-term strategic cooperation between firms that acts as a service provider specialized in facilitating access to foreign markets.

  • Most consortia are non-profit entities.



Export consortia not only exist among firms in the manufacturing sector, but can also be found in the service sector as well as among artisans. In Italy, the country with the most extensive consortia experience, the main operating sectors of export consortia are:

  • Export consortia not only exist among firms in the manufacturing sector, but can also be found in the service sector as well as among artisans. In Italy, the country with the most extensive consortia experience, the main operating sectors of export consortia are:

  • • Plant, machinery and engineering;

  • • Textiles, clothing, leatherwear, footwear;

  • • Food, wine, beverages;

  • • Chemicals;

  • • Wood and furniture;

  • • Glass, crystalware;

  • • Construction industry and related sectors;

  • Electronic goods, electro technology and optical instruments;

  • • Jewellery, costume jewellery.



SMEs often have considerable difficulties to enter foreign markets. Export consortia cannot only assist their members to achieve an export presence, but can also entail significant additional benefits.

  • SMEs often have considerable difficulties to enter foreign markets. Export consortia cannot only assist their members to achieve an export presence, but can also entail significant additional benefits.

  • SMEs usually have difficulty exporting to foreign markets: they may lack:

    • the necessary knowledge and financing,
    • may not meet foreign regulatory requirements,
    • or may produce products in quantities or quality that are not adequate for foreign buyers, among many other potential problems.
  • However, these problems can often be overcome through cooperation among SMEs.

  • By combining their:

    • knowledge,
    • financial resources and
    • contacts within an export consortium,
  • SMEs can significantly improve their:

    • export potential
    • and reduce the costs and risks involved in penetrating foreign markets.


By cooperating within an export consortium, which combines the expertise and financial means of several firms, SMEs can overcome the obstacles and effectively enter and develop foreign markets at reduced cost and risk.

  • By cooperating within an export consortium, which combines the expertise and financial means of several firms, SMEs can overcome the obstacles and effectively enter and develop foreign markets at reduced cost and risk.

  • At the same time, members can improve their profitability, achieve efficiency gains and accumulate knowledge.



By improving firms’ access to information on foreign markets and by leading to a greater diversification of exports, export consortia can significantly reduce the risk of exporting and of exploring new business opportunities abroad. Diversification is achieved through an increase in the number of markets targeted as well as through a reduction of seasonal fluctuations in exports, especially when markets are geographically dispersed.

  • By improving firms’ access to information on foreign markets and by leading to a greater diversification of exports, export consortia can significantly reduce the risk of exporting and of exploring new business opportunities abroad. Diversification is achieved through an increase in the number of markets targeted as well as through a reduction of seasonal fluctuations in exports, especially when markets are geographically dispersed.



Participation in an export consortium can greatly improve the profit margins of member firms through a variety of savings, the development of an export strategy and the achievement of stable exports.

  • Participation in an export consortium can greatly improve the profit margins of member firms through a variety of savings, the development of an export strategy and the achievement of stable exports.

  • Within export consortia, members share administrative and promotional costs and thus avoid the expenses of establishing their own export department. By jointly using transportation and other export facilities, additional time and cost savings can be achieved.

  • In addition, consortia help their members to move from simply supplying products to customers (“reactive” exporting) towards developing a true export strategy where domestic marketing activities can be extended and technical specifications and/or prices are not simply prescribed by clients (“active” exporting).



Inter-firm cooperation of the type found in consortia allows SMEs to overcome the challenges arising from their small size and to exploit economies of scale and scope, which cannot be attained by the individual firm.

  • Inter-firm cooperation of the type found in consortia allows SMEs to overcome the challenges arising from their small size and to exploit economies of scale and scope, which cannot be attained by the individual firm.

  • By pooling financial and human resources and by sharing information and experiences, members of a consortium can improve and intensify their promotional activities abroad.

  • In addition, activities can be undertaken that individual firms may not be able to carry out on their own, such as market research and product development.



One of the most important benefits of export consortia is linked to the accumulation of know-how. Firms participating in export consortia typically have limited export experience and are in the early stages of export market entry or expansion.

  • One of the most important benefits of export consortia is linked to the accumulation of know-how. Firms participating in export consortia typically have limited export experience and are in the early stages of export market entry or expansion.

  • By participating in an export consortium, members can improve their knowledge of how to operate in foreign markets, how to improve business operations in areas not related to exporting and of how to participate in alliances.

  • Exporting is a classical example of “learning by doing”. By participating in an export consortium, members can tap the different export-relevant resources and skills within the individual firms.

  • Additionally, members may exchange knowledge in several areas such as on how to negotiate with banks or on how to implement certain technical standards.



Export consortia differ with respect to the services they provide.

  • Export consortia differ with respect to the services they provide.

  • There are those that offer only basic secretariat functions, assist with translations and/or provide market research.

  • There are, however, also those that help members develop a complete export strategy and provide a wider range of services, including collective purchases of inputs, legal assistance, the creation of a consortium brand and other forms of marketing.

  • The two main types of consortia that can be distinguished are promotional and sales consortia.

  • Within this classification, several varieties of export consortia can be identified:

    • Single-sector and multi-sector consortia;
    • Consortia grouping competitors and those offering complementary goods and services;
    • Regional consortia and those comprising members from several regions;
    • Consortia targeting a specific region and those active on a global scale.


Whereas the former refers to an alliance created to explore specific export markets by sharing promotional and logistic costs, the latter represents an entity that channels the members’ exports. Promotional consortia thus confine themselves to promoting the products of their members and to assist these in accessing foreign markets. Sales are directly performed by the associated companies.

  • Whereas the former refers to an alliance created to explore specific export markets by sharing promotional and logistic costs, the latter represents an entity that channels the members’ exports. Promotional consortia thus confine themselves to promoting the products of their members and to assist these in accessing foreign markets. Sales are directly performed by the associated companies.

  • Sales consortia, on the other hand, perform business promotion activities and organize the sale of member firms’ products. To ensure a certain image, these types of consortia often control the quality of the marketed products. While the number of member firms is typically limited in a sales consortium, promotional consortia usually have a significant number of members.

  • Within sales consortia, member firms delegate the authority to do business in their name to the managers of the consortium. Two types of sales consortia exist: (a)trading consortia, i.e. those that purchase the products from the member firms in order to resell them, and (b) consortia acting as export agents.



Single-sector consortia allow activities to focus on member firms’ products, as these are more homogeneous than those of firms belonging to multi-sector consortia. In addition, firms active in a specific sector tend to be acquainted with each other and to have greater knowledge of each other’s businesses than those operating in several sectors. This is likely to improve cooperation among members.

  • Single-sector consortia allow activities to focus on member firms’ products, as these are more homogeneous than those of firms belonging to multi-sector consortia. In addition, firms active in a specific sector tend to be acquainted with each other and to have greater knowledge of each other’s businesses than those operating in several sectors. This is likely to improve cooperation among members.

  • The main benefit of multi-sector consortia is that a wider range of products can be offered. For example, a consortium might be able to offer a complete range of hotel supplies (lifts, furniture, decorations, lighting and kitchen equipment). Cost savings are attainable for these types of consortia, provided that products are sufficiently close so that the same promotional methods can be applied to all goods and services.

  • Despite the variety of firms within a multi-sector consortium, the group should be able to portray a common image. It is thus essential that members’ products are compatible with respect to design and quality.

  • Whereas the main binding elements between members of single-sector consortia are their familiarity with each other and the products they produce, members of multi-sector consortia often only share the will to access foreign markets.



Whether consortia comprise members of a specific region or of several regions typically depends on whether the initiative to establish a consortium comes from a national organization of enterprises in a specific sector or a local chamber of commerce. National consortia have the advantage that they can bring geographically dispersed firms into contact. They are thus more representative and may result in less competition between members than regional groups.

  • Whether consortia comprise members of a specific region or of several regions typically depends on whether the initiative to establish a consortium comes from a national organization of enterprises in a specific sector or a local chamber of commerce. National consortia have the advantage that they can bring geographically dispersed firms into contact. They are thus more representative and may result in less competition between members than regional groups.

  • Regional consortia, on the other hand, often have a specific local purpose, e.g. the promotion of typical food products or artisan goods. These types of consortia often emerge out of industrial districts.



Experience has shown that particularly small firms and those at the early stages of export activities can derive the greatest benefits from participation in an export consortium.

  • Experience has shown that particularly small firms and those at the early stages of export activities can derive the greatest benefits from participation in an export consortium.

  • They are most in need of assistance and thus the most motivated to participate actively.

  • Particularly in OIC Member States, export consortia can be an important mechanism to promote exports. Firms in these countries often do not have the infrastructure and the access to information and other resources that their counterparts in industrialized countries have.

  • Most importantly, establishing a consortium may initiate a process and not just create an entity. By fostering inter-firm cooperation, also in areas unrelated to exports, consortia improve the business environment for SMEs and enhance the capacity of firms to take advantage of market opportunities.

  • Export consortia can thus be a first step of a comprehensive strategy to strengthen the competitiveness of SMEs through inter-firm cooperation.






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