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Routes to market:How to set up a business abroad

What you’ll learn

  • if setting up a new business is the right option for you
  • the challenges you may face
  • the first steps you need to take to set up abroad

Deciding whether to set up a business abroad

You've established there's demand for your product or service in an overseas market and you're already successfully selling into it either directly or through an agent or a distributor. Your next step to consolidate that market could be to set up a business locally.

Choose this if:

you’re an experienced exporter with an ambitious expansion programme

you need a local presence to bid for government contracts

Do not choose this if:

you’re new to exporting or risk-averse

you’re just testing a market to assess its potential

you do not have the finance to cover additional costs


  • Increases brand visibility and trust
  • Improves customer support
  • Provides potential for greater rewards


  • Set-up costs and risks
  • Language and cultural barriers
  • Foreign rules and regulations


You should be aware that you may not be able to simply replicate your existing UK business into another market. The challenges you will face in setting up a business will vary as some markets are more straightforward than others.

Once you've established your customer base and chosen a location, you should carry out thorough research. The following list is a good place to start, but there may be other areas you should look at, depending on your market and sector. Research:

  • rules and regulations so you can comply with the law
  • local sales taxes
  • the ease of recruiting staff members
  • immigration laws, if you need to relocate staff
  • social security and insurance
  • how to protect your intellectual property

Taking the first steps

  1. Seek advice from other UK businesses already present in your target market
  2. Get legal and financial advice from local in-market lawyers, accountants and banks
  3. Look out for support and incentives from local government inward-investment agencies

Rising incomes and low inflation are positive signs that a market could be a good place to set up your business.

International trade adviser

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