Global Spotlight: Water, Water Everywhere

Finding the right fit for an office abroad, when the possibilities are as big as the world.

When the American Water Works Association (AWWA), the world’s largest nonprofit devoted to managing and treating water, wanted to expand its market reach overseas, it faced a dilemma. Unlike some global-minded organizations whose choices for extending abroad are limited by their finite industries, water is everywhere, and its vital role in every person’s life is unequalled. In other words, the possibilities felt as abundant as water itself.

But where to locate its first office outside North America? AWWA CEO David LaFrance, in an MCI “Grow Globally” webinar, said the association looked at a handful of metrics to narrow down the possibilities. Two questions were key:

Which countries have a proven demand for our products? “We looked at our historical data on who had been purchasing our publications, where we had core groups of members, where people would come from to attend our conferences, or where people would come from to exhibit on our exhibit floor,” LaFrance says.

Which countries have the capacity for an AWWA presence? The association determined whether or not customers in certain countries could afford its products. It also examined which countries had public health needs that AWWA could fulfill—and whether those countries had the capability to implement public health responses. AWWA also considered whether it would be able to protect its intellectual property and the difficulty of entering the country as a nonprofit.

In the end, AWWA chose to open an office in Mumbai, India.

“It might seem like you could throw a dart at a map of the world and go there,” LaFrance said in an interview with Associations Now. “But really, if you want to be successful, you need to give some thought to it and be strategic. So, we reduced the risk by going to a place where we were known, where there was a proven record of interest in our products, services, and participation, and where the conditions could allow us to do our business and protect our property. And they have water needs that we can address. So, the real goal of doing a business analysis was to identify risks and frame potential.”


Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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