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Foreign Trade: Growing opportunities in international trade

A career in international trade has tremendous potential with employment opportunities multiplying in export-import firms

With the rapid globalisation of markets and the dismantling of trade barriers under the new World Trade Organization (WTO) regime, highly rewarding job opportunities are becoming available to professionals trained in export-import or foreign trade management. A career in international trade has tremendous potential with employment opportunities multiplying in the marketing, documentation, shipping, and packaging departments of export-import firms and in the export divisions of business firms.

To successfully effect business transactions beyond national and cultural boundaries is very challenging. Its like walking a tightrope because it requires success in international markets while working within the bureaucratic constraints of the domestic environment. Even though international trade is mainly transacted by private sector exporters and importers, it takes specialised students of international trade to help manage the myriad official procedures associated with it.

A formal study course in export-import management familiarises the student with the fundamentals of international business such as international marketing, banking, forex (foreign exchange) management, export-import policies, export commerce, shipping documentation, marine and cargo insurance etc. India has an impressive catalogue of exports comprising spices, garments, gems and jewellery, handicrafts, medical and chemical goods, and services like software solutions.

The best education programmes in this field are offered by the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT), New Delhi. Courses offered at IIFT include PG diploma in international trade. Duration: one year. Eligibility: Masters degree in any subject with two years relevant experience or bachelors degree in any discipline with at least 55 percent plus two years work experience. Age: below 30 years. IIFT also offers a Masters programme in international business. Duration: two years. Eligibility: bachelors degree or a Masters degree in any discipline with at least 50 percent.

Other reputable institutes offering postgraduate courses in foreign trade/international trade or international marketing include:

  • Department of Commerce and Business Management, Punjab University, Chandigarh
  • Department of Commerce, Delhi School of Economics
  • Indian Institute of Export Management, Kolkata
  • Symbiosis Institute of Foreign Trade, Pune
  • Institute of Management Development & Research (IMDR), Pune
  • International Institute of Foreign Trade and Research, Indore
  • Gitam Institute of Foreign Trade, Gandhinagar Campus, Vishakapatnam
  • Amity Business School, Noida
  • Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
  • Indian Institute of Commerce and Trade, Lucknow

Recently IIFT has introduced its part-time three-year MBA in International Business on its Salt Lake, Kolkata campus. This programme is being offered at IIFTs Delhi campus as well. Among takers are government officials, senior managers, and executives with six to seven years work experience.

Currently there are over 5,000 export-oriented firms in Mumbai itself. International trade managers are needed by them. Their services are also needed by shipping companies and clearing and forwarding agents as also by multinational and national export and trading houses. Consequently, pay packages are very attractive though they vary with managers experience and the type and size of the employer company.

With Indias exports growing by a healthy 10–15 percent per year, young people need to look beyond the infotech and MBA options at careers like foreign trade which have very good scope,” says Manoj Shah (47), vice president (commercial & projects) of the Mumbai-based Ashapura Minechem, the largest mine owner, processor and exporter of bentonite and bauxite in India and third largest bentonite producer in the world with mining reserves of more than 25 million tonnes. Ashapura Minechem exports bentonite and bauxite in processed as well as value-added form to over 30 countries in the Middle East, Latin America, Europe, Egypt, Japan, South-east Asia, and Australia and also has interests in shipping, chartering, port operations and related activities through its offices in India and the UAE.

A mechanical engineer with diplomas in materials management and export-import management, Shah has worked as an engineer with Premier Automobiles and as purchase and materials manager with the Copwud group of companies. Now for the past nine years hes been handling foreign trade management in Ashapura Minechem. Theres a shortage of technical people in this field. Engineers or even science students with postgraduate degrees in foreign trade are needed at the top level as several companies are exporting engineering products. Moreover now theres a lot of scope in software exports,” says Shah, who believes that the best markets for Indian exports are Africa, Russia, the former Soviet republics, Europe, and America.

Shah has no doubt that Indias foreign trade will keep growing, offering great career growth opportunities. Its a very challenging profession. Observing trade patterns and playing an active role in international markets can be a very satisfying occupation. Moreover as long as the world is doing business, an international business managers services will always be valued,” he counsels.

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