ENTREPRENEUR Jim Hart is seeing his business ventures benefit from international opportunities, particularly in emerging African economies.
Europlus Direct, based at Salts Mill, Saltaire, started in 2004 as an IBM support services reseller, solely targeting the French market, before expanding to cover the UK, most of western Europe and Australia.
In 2010, the opportunity arose to set up a different model as a distributor, selling IT maintenance contracts to support IBM hardware in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Today, Europlus Direct International specialises in spare parts as well and Mr Hart is looking to set up a distributor presence in the United States and Latin America. For the group as a whole, which includes language service company One Global, turnover is expected to hit £8m this year, up from £6.14m the previous year and £4.12m the year before.
Mr Hart said: “Forty per cent of our operating profit is from the African operation.
“In Africa it’s good because there’s not really that much competition at the moment because a lot of people don’t want to go there as there’s obviously risks involved. But we are hoping to roll that model out into as many countries as feasible in Africa and we are also talking to IBM about becoming a distributor in the US and in Latin America.
“Because of some of the worldwide deals we are doing at the moment it is going to be almost essential we can buy from a distributor like ourselves to keep costs down for the end user.”
Europlus Direct International has its head office in Mauritius to cover Mauritius, the Indian Ocean islands and the African market. In 2011, offices were set up in Mozambique, Namibia and Senegal.
“The banks are starting to go into Africa and they need really good IT infrastructure. It’s beginning to really lift up,” remarked Mr Hart.
The plan is to set up spare parts presences on islands in the Caribbean and off Australia as well, while centres in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Bosnia Herzegovina are also on the agenda.
Mr Hart said: “What makes us stand out is that international trade is what we do every minute of every day. We employ native language speakers – 25 in Salts Mill and over 15 overseas. We go local despite being international. We’ve overcome enormous hurdles especially in Africa but nothing stops us as we know our goal is to sell to the maximum number of markets.”
Meanwhile, Mr Hart is also keen to grow One Global, a relatively new venture which was previously called Tema, and is also based in Saltaire.
The languages services provider currently has a language recruitment division and a translation division, which works mainly in travel and tourism and the IT sectors.
Leeds agency McGrath O’Toole was hired to re-brand the company, which has now launched a new website. “With that business, if we are lucky, if we’ve got some funds, we might do some acquisitions,” said Mr Hart.
More than 40 people are employed across the group of companies, and Mr Hart is keen to increase the head count. “I’m really keen to employ more. We have this massive space in Salts Mill, it’s 5,000 sq ft.
“We moved in there to basically fill it in 2008, we haven’t filled it yet, and I’ve got this thing that I want to fill it.
“I’d love to have lots more people and I’m really keen to employ. I want to build a very big business but concurrently employ people.”
Mr Hart owns Europlus Direct and One Global and 45 per cent of Europlus Direct International – two other directors based in Africa own the remainder. Mr Hart said all the businesses are profitable.