Leading the way on ‘export-ready’
SECURING deliveries of clean drinking water for workers is one of the things Aram Drake has learnt needs consideration when opening a coal mine in India.
It's one of the differences the Clearcut Mining Solutions managing director has come to appreciate since he started doing business there at the end of last year.
After operating from central Queensland for more than 20 years, pressures stemming from the resource sector downturn about three years ago encouraged the company, which specialises in underground coal mining consultancy, to look for opportunities in other markets.
During this time it managed the Adani underground engineering work, giving the company a foot in the door to the Indian mining sector.
"It definitely has helped," Mr Drake said.
"Building relationships through referrals with people is a lot better than trying to approach offshore companies cold.
"And having good contacts in India has helped when we've gone to look for work in India, because we can relate to their culture. They know people they can contact and go 'Are these people the right people'."
He said learning to understand the culture and people was key.
"For companies looking at going overseas, it's all about the people," Mr Drake said.
"You need to have the right skill to understand what you're delivering to the company. But they also have to be accepting of the cultural differences.
"When you work in places like Mongolia and China and India, you've got to accept that normally, you're a bit out of your comfort zone. So you've got to have the right people with the right attitude."
But he said the benefits of these relationships would take time to fall into place.
"Four to five years ago, we started talking about it. We spent a number of years building contacts and investing in the relationship. We got our first major contract in India last year," Mr Drake said.
Devoting time to understand the laws, insurance, tax and contracts was also vital.
"The commercial risks are massive. You really need to make sure you are happy with the contract," Mr Drake said. "Definitely homework is very important."
Mr Drake also said it took time to recognise the things he'd "taken for granted", like available drinking water.
"Things you take for granted just aren't there. Like drinking water. We had to put in a contract to get five litres of drinking water delivered every day," Mr Drake said.
"(And) what happens if you get sick 300km from anywhere in India? You have to have processes in place for that."
Despite the risks, he said the expansion to India had been in line with their 'long-term goals', allowing them to diversify by reaching different markets, rather than broadening and 'watering down' their skills.