Serge Bélair firmly believes translation can become an economic driver, and that his self-made company, Traductions Serge Bélair Inc. (TRSB) will become an international player. Twenty-five years ago the young Bélair launched a small translation agency in Old Montreal. It now has 120 employees – translators as well as language specialists – and annual sales of close to $15 million. In a fragmented global market with 25,000 companies in 152 countries offering translation services, only 2% of those have similar sales figures.
With less than 0.5% of the world population, Canada has 10% of the global translation market. Québec, with its unique social and linguistic history, has 49% of that share. Although it only deals with two languages (English and French), the province is probably responsible for 8% of world translation and is considered a model by many European countries for its expert use of technology.
Canada’s biggest translators are large corporations and governments (particularly Ottawa), but TRSB deals with many large pan-Canadian and U.S. finance, insurance and aeronautics companies who value the firm’s ability to advise them on Canada’s and Quebec’s official language requirements. TRSB is one of the top 5 translation agencies in Montreal and has grown 25% per year for the past 5 years, in spite of stiff competition from foreign translation agencies who can afford to sustain a loss in Quebec and hence drive down prices for local agencies.
With so many assets, the founder’s dream may well be within reach. However, unless the company can play in the big league, “we risk becoming mere sub-contractors of the big multinationals, who will dictate how we can practice our profession,” cautions Bélair.
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