Challenges: digitalisation and the ‘glocal’ future
But Xavier has also noticed a change in how global business is done. In part, change has come about as a natural symptom to the Coronavirus pandemic: “Digitalisation is a continuous process; our customers are connected throughout the whole process and our website stores plenty of data and technical information that we offer to the sector”.
Like most companies during the pandemic, Gual Steel has had to adapt its networking approach from a strong, southern European preference for in-person meetings and communication to online and virtual connection. “Under normal circumstances, our team is always travelling to meet people in person. The fact that we speak so many languages is an asset to us; we can connect with customers in their home countries, speaking their own language. During the pandemic, our outreach has had to change. For the everyday things, video call and virtual meetings work very well, but in terms of reaching new customers and presenting our company, the loss of in-person connection has been a challenge.”
But this is not the only change that Xavier has seen. “In the last 20 years, my company has seen business grow from local to global, and now we are seeing a hybrid of the two: Glocal business.
“When I first started Gual Steel, the term ‘export’ for a Spanish company meant selling to France and Italy; that is not the case anymore, as the soft borders within Europe mean it has, economically speaking, become like one single country. Since then, export has evolved to mean selling to China, Africa, and India. Nowadays, partly because of new customs regulations between nations such as the EU with the US, we are presented with new challenges. What it means exactly, I don’t know, but I am very interested to find out because we are entering a new way of doing business.”
In light of Xavier’s concerns about the digitalisation that business is now seeing, he also raises questions as to how this will help the communication in a ‘glocalised’ sector: “Of course, I will never be against any new system of communication, it will allow us to be more efficient. But I am interested to see how it will help us to connect our customers and partners from different cultures in a way that is better than face-to-face contact”.
However, Xavier also anticipates that some things will change for the better in a post-Covid world. “You know, some things still grow in a desert, some new flowers bloom. It is my belief that Covid will accelerate some new business models for companies like Gual Steel; we are people who have experienced globalisation and digitalisation, so we are prepared for the changes to come in this post-Covid world.”