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Export Award For Pulse Data International

Export Award For Pulse Data International

Christchurch, April 11, 2003 -- Increasing annual export earnings by five times in the past five years to $50 million has seen Christchurch company Pulse Data International win a Trade New Zealand Export Award for the second consecutive year.

Pulse Data International designs and manufactures innovative technology products for the blind and visually impaired.

(Note to editors: Media are invited to attend the Trade New Zealand Export Award presented to Pulse Data International by the Minister of Trade Negotiations the Hon. Jim Sutton, on Friday 11 April, at the company’s premises, 1 Expo Place, Christchurch, at 11.15am).

International Marketing & Business Development Manager Greg Thompson says the company has two main product lines, both aimed at giving users greater independence.

The BrailleNote family of products are Microsoft Windows CE based personal information management systems design specifically for people who are blind. The SmartView range of video magnifiers are targeted at people who are severely visually impaired. This range enables users to view enlarged text, images and objects on a display screen.

Designed and manufactured in Christchurch, 96% of Pulse Data’s products are exported to more than 30 countries. Mr Thompson says the company’s growth in recent years has been outstanding, with foreign exchange earnings increasing substantially over each of the last five years.

“Export growth has largely been driven by the success of our BrailleNote product which, since its launch in July 2000, has seen us capture an amazing 65% share of the US market for Braille and speech notetakers. Superior to anything previously available on the market, the BrailleNote really caught our US competitors by surprise.”

The BrailleNote is designed to help blind people reach their potential, particularly in education and business. Features include a word processor, email, a planner, a web browser that provides users with portable internet access, and a book reader.

Mr Thompson says upgrades of the BrailleNote are ongoing. A French language version was launched in March and a German language version is due for release in the new few months. The first phase of GPS (global positioning systems) has been incorporated, enabling the user to define points of interest – for example landmarks between work and home – which the BrailleNote will identify when they are getting near to them.

Phase two GPS, using maps, will tell people who are blind where they are and how close they are to where they want to be, and also tell them when to turn left and right and what street to go down. Mr Thompson says this is the most exciting and significant phase of BrailleNote GPS, and will be released in the next few months.

He says while Pulse Data is not yet the largest manufacturer in the low vision and blindness markets, it is generally recognised as the most innovative.

“Our record of innovation goes back to 1988 when this company launched products that took the market by storm. We were producing things right back in the earliest days of this company that people found exciting, and we are still doing it. We are finding that we are leading the competition and they are following our initiatives.

“Other competitive advantages can be attributed to successful market intelligence, listening and understanding customer issues and requirements and establishing strong strategic relationships with industry leaders such as Microsoft – that relationship has helped considerably to strength our position and reputation in international markets.”

Mr Thompson says the company has invested significantly in expanding its international operations in the past year, with acquisitions and restructuring a major focus. It consolidated its business in the US into one operation and extended its distribution network in that market, and in Europe. It also restructured its European sales offices into one UK-based operation, which Mr Thompson says has strengthened its ability to penetrate the European region.

“In addition we did a lot of market research with Trade New Zealand on Asian markets and are now starting to develop this region, and we’ve also opened up other new markets in the Middle East.”

Pulse Data International has 130 staff, with half in its Christchurch headquarters. While many of its international competitors are relocating their manufacturing operations to Asia, Mr Thompson says Pulse Data sees many benefits in its New Zealand location.

“We could manufacture our products anywhere in the world, but we like it here. There is also an availability of R&D skills, innovative thinkers who work outside the square and people with a very good work ethic. New Zealand also offers a highly competitive cost base.”

Trade New Zealand Account Manager Cate Hlavac congratulated Pulse Data International on its Export Award, saying the company continues to achieve outstanding foreign exchange results.

“New technology development, product innovation and access to alliance partners are competitive advantages to the organisation that are not able to be matched by much larger, international competitors. It has also demonstrated an ability to restructure its operations in order to stay in tune with changing market conditions and opportunities.”

Mr Thompson says Pulse Data is projecting continued strong export growth, driven by capturing a greater share of existing markets, developing new regions, such as Asia, and the launch of new, innovative products. To help fund its growth plans the company is considering listing on the Stock Exchange next year. Mr Thompson says it had intended an IPO (initial public offering) this year, but decided to defer because of world events.

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