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I want to venture into import business - what are the basics

I want to import salt from India and sell in Botswana

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Since you are planning to become involved in two countries, I can understand why you housed your question under the topic Export/Import.

Key to your success will be the development of links to buyers or sources in other nations. You may have gotten the idea that it is a simple and perhaps easy enterprise to get into and successfully perform. It is not in my experience any such thing. Companies who are successful evolve contacts and product relationships in foreign countries and that take careful and businesslike approaches. You will find yourself importing from one country by exporting to other countries and vice versa. There are laws and processes that apply in both domains governing taxes, duties and the import/export process.

It is recommend that you research thoroughly the answers to the following questions:

(a) What are the specifics of the equipment and supplies you are becoming involved in? (Manufacturer's part number, performance specification, unique qualities and market potential) What are the distribution channels that currently exist; is there a product warranty and are their spare and repair parts involved?

(b) Who buys the product in countries you intend to sell to. (commercial consumer, government agency, large business, hospitals, military etc.) Do you plan to do market research on the potential demand for a product before you buy it? My advice is that you should - before you buy. I further advise that you research practical marketing, sales and distribution channels for a product before you buy it or import it. What are the possibilities of locally retailing it yourself?

(c) What are the laws and regulations regarding the movement of equipment and supplies? How are they taxed? Are they regulated? Are licenses required to either import or export the items?

(d) What service can you perform in (a)-(c) above? What value can you add to the process? Do you have special channels to either a customer or a source for the supplies and equipment? Do you have special knowledge or do you know others with special knowledge of these equipment and supplies, customers and sources which you could involve in creating or designing a niche no one else is filling or offer these items at a price attractive enough to generate volume and profit for your business and beat the competition.

(e) Who is your competition and how are they performing (a)-(d) above? Your business involves offering the service of importing equipment and supplies to fill the need in the US from sources out of the country and the other way around. You must develop an available niche that other companies do not fill, either by having lower prices, more and better sources, or a low overhead cost for handling the business; faster delivery, better product warranty, parts service and replacement, all play in the equation. Your market plan must address the reliability of your sources, the quality of their product and how well they support their product in countries other than their own.

Carefully review Freight Forwarder terms and conditions and assess the liability arrangements in the event of product theft or loss for goods.

A freight forwarder is your paid agent to safeguard your property. He is also registered to handle clearing customs. Certain other FF specialize in dealing with foreign countries. He is normally the individual to which your overseas manufacturer ships you product or through whom you ship product to foreign countries. Relying on the manufacturer himself to ship, insure, handle export and import requirements is not a safe bet and shipping directly to a foreign country has no assurances of delivery.

The foreign factory producer has too much conflict of interest in simply getting you to pay his bill and move on and your expertise in clearing customs in a foreign country may be limited. Freight forwarder expenses must be added to those of the product you buy from the factory source. These expenses should be included in your business plan and in your product pricing prior to going to market.

Be wary of networks and exchange sites on the web that offer to make you rich and handle all the arrangements. This is seldom the case.

Finally your business plan will be your best long -term asset in establishing your credibility with the banking community and with prospective investors. My advice is to start small and slow, with minimal personal investment and begin dealing in products only after you have a well developed business plan and market research indicates they will be profitable. As the business establishes itself, a demonstrated cash flow and projected earnings statement can be used as leverage with a good business plan to achieve a small business loan

Your planned banking arrangements should involve setting up accounts that involve automatic currency conversion features in the countries you plan to do business in.

I recommend being careful not to make your inventory a burden. Carrying excessive financed inventory without associated sales to pay the bills is one of the biggest traps you can fall into. Also remember many products have a shelf life which must be considered in the storage environment.

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