Cross-border forklift maker has China in its hand (and also Vietnam and Thailand)

Martin McVicar, chief executive of Monaghan-based forklift manufacturer Combilift, which has plans to set up a network of sales support agents across Asia
Martin McVicar, chief executive of Monaghan-based forklift manufacturer Combilift, which has plans to set up a network of sales support agents across Asia

CROSS-border forklift manufacturer Combilift has unveiled plans to establish a network of sales support agents across Asia to support customers and attract new clients.

The move comes a year after the Monaghan-based engineering firm revealed that it expected to double its Asian turnover to €25m by 2025, and was expanding its business in the region from existing bases in India and China to emerging markets in Vietnam and Thailand.

“Our equipment needs after-sales service,” said Combilift chief executive Martin McVicar.

“We are now in the process of putting our own people on the ground across Asia.

“We already have salespeople in India and in Vietnam but our intention is to put more boots on the ground in multiple markets across the region.

“We intend to have two sales people supporting our customers and promoting the business in every country we operate.

“One will be a technical sales person, while the other will provide after sales support.”

“At the moment, Thailand is a priority for us,” he continued

“And India is such a big market, we could do with more than one person in that country.”

Combilift, which is celebrating 25 years in business this year, is the largest global manufacturer of multi-directional forklifts.

It has been operating in the Asian market for over 15 years.

Mr McVicar, who is speaking at a major trade conference in Letterkenny's Radisson Hotel on October 2-3 - organised by think tank Asia Matters in partnership with the Atlantic Technological University and Údarás na Gaeltachta - said customers in the world’s wealthiest region “need to see you”.

“In many of the Asian markets, China in particular, one visit is never enough,” he said.

“Customers want to see that you are serious about the business, they want to you to come back and build a rapport with them.

“In India, for example, you can go into a customer meeting, and everyone is in agreement that they want to use Combilift, and the plan is to order equipment, but it can stop at that.

“Sometimes, what you hear at a meeting doesn’t necessarily translate into business as quickly as it does in the West – and you need to go back to the customer again, demonstrating the value of the proposition as such.”

Mr McVicar said his company has never been daunted by the prospect of facing low-cost competition from local suppliers – and he advised Irish firms to “hone in on their USP” when seeking out new opportunities across Asia.

“They (USPs) can bring value to the customers,” he said.

“At Combilift, we have never been afraid to follow our customers overseas, to the markets where they are operating.

“When you have referenced customers on the ground, it makes it a lot easier to scale up the business.”

The two-day ‘Growing Global Business with Asia from the North West Knowledge Hub’ event features contributions from senior business and political figures, including the newly appointed Secretary General at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Declan Hughes; Britain’s Ambassador to Ireland, Paul Johnston; and TCS Country Head, Deepak Chaudhari.

The conference (details at is supported by Donegal County Council and Letterkenny Chamber.