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Barr Ellison Solicitors – commercial property
2 July, 2014 - 23:04 By News Desk

UKTI Case study – C4 Carbides


C4 Carbides, a Cambridge manufacturer of power tool accessories and industrial band saw blades, looks set to deliver a ten-fold increase in exports to Brazil, thanks to UKTI support.

The company first made contact with UKTI in April 2012, following a recommendation from their Finance Director. 

“International sales have always been an important part of our business as we know there is a limited market in the UK for our products,” said Pete Nicolson, company founder and CEO.  

“In the early days, our approach to exporting was quite ad hoc.  Over time I began to realise that we would benefit from expert support to help us develop a more strategic plan.”

UKTI international trade adviser Carmel McKean said: “When they contacted UKTI, C4 Carbides was already doing business in Brazil, selling directly to an end user in the tyre manufacturing industry, and a distributor, even though no one from the company had yet been to visit the country. 

“They knew that this market held untapped potential because they were already managing to make some sales despite high import duties, so UKTI helped the company to explore their next steps in a way that was cost-effective and time efficient.” 

In September 2012 Nicolson signed up for Gateway to Global Growth, a UKTI programme that helps experienced exporters to take their international strategy to the next level.  A masterclass on Brazil followed by a two-day sales and marketing course at Cranfield School of Management enabled him to consolidate and extend his knowledge of the Brazilian market, while also networking with people who were already trading there. 

Nicolson then commissioned an Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS) for Brazil, working with Carmel and the UKTI office in Sao Paulo to refine a brief that would enable C4 Carbides to find more effective Brazilian distributors for their industrial product range. Nicolson said: “For less than £2,000 I got a comprehensive 40 page report that covered important information about the complex tax system and payment terms, while also giving me a specific rundown on a dozen or so important band saw manufacturers.”

In October 2013, Nicolson took advantage of UKTI grant funding to visit Brazil and follow up with this list of potential customers.  

“The Consulate in Sao Paulo drew up a seven day schedule for Pete and found out in advance which of his meetings would require the services of an interpreter, said Carmel McKean. “We were able to recommend both an interpreter and a driver, paid for by Pete in local currency, so that he could make best use of his time.  The driver met him at the airport and worked from a copy of the itinerary, collecting the interpreter as needed.

“In unknown territory, where you can’t easily communicate and you aren’t familiar with the cultural practices, it’s important to have people around whom you can trust.”  Some of his journeys were three to four hours long.  He needed to arrive at important meetings feeling composed and ready to present, so it was essential for him to have a driver who could be relied on to know the way and get him to each meeting safely, and on time.

“Because Brazil is such a huge country, Nicolson added, “the Consulate even factored in three Skype sessions so that I could speak, via the interpreter, with potential distributors who would be too far away for me to meet in person on that particular trip.”

The meetings led him to one outstanding potential candidate that was the right size and where employees spoke good English.  He was able to visit the factory and ask technical questions, later offering them the opportunity to become the Master Distributor in Brazil for C4 Carbides, selling to other distributors on the company’s behalf.

Nicolson is due to return to Brazil shortly for the Mecanica trade show, the largest international machinery and equipment trade fair for the machine tool sector, where he will be working with his new distributor to promote C4 Carbides products on the exhibition floor.  He has also commissioned a second OMIS for India, ahead of a visit scheduled for Autumn 2014. 

Although it has established connections in Shanghai, the company exploring further opportunities through UKTI’s OMIS programme in a bid to develop additional sales in China. 

“Working with Carmel and UKTI has enabled me to achieve in a week, in Brazil, what would otherwise have taken me three visits and a year of my time,” added Nicolson.


To find out more about UK Trade and Investment services in the East of England contact your local International Trade team:

Tel:  0845 641 9955

Email: info [at]


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