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Tap into business opportunities with China

Binu Pillai, COO of Meorient International Exhibition, organisers of China Homelife Fair and China Machinex, provides insights into the Chinese importing opportunities for South African start-ups.

China had made a name for itself in recent years in economic and quality aspects, which is why business people from across the world are flocking to have business involvement. With a population of over one billion and a fast growing economy, China is definitely the next best place to acquire quality goods from.

In a wide market industry such as that of China, there will always be lots of product choices to choose from when venturing into the business of importing. However, before you get excited and rush into this business, you must first know the basic tips and techniques on how to import goods.

Find products that are in demand
When importing from China, it’s advisable that you go for products which you have an interest in. Looking for possible supply sources is not the difficult task when starting with the importing process – looking for what product to import is. It is crucial for you as an importer to find a product or a line of products which you have an interest in, as this will make selling the goods easier. It is also crucial to identify a product that is produced particularly well in China, and will be in demand in South Africa. This will provide you with a perfect business opportunity to import that product. Moreover, if you have already decided the product to import, you can now proceed to look for sources of such product.

Find the right market
In the early stages of your business, it is important to choose a target niche that you can focus on. The importing business covers a range of industries so it would be beneficial to your new business to focus on a single target or market in order to first gain experience and establish a reputation within that market.

It is advisable to do some research on your market of choice beforehand to locate the best potential for your product or service. Developing a knack for tracking and discovering trends within your market is also beneficial as it will allow you to stay abreast with which trends will make your business successful.

Find a good manufacturer or supplier
It is not enough that you find a good supplier; you must also be able to create a harmonious relationship with your supplier. The logic behind this technique is that the more comfortable and professional the relationship is between the importer and the supplier, the more the business venture will turn out to be successful. It is best to have face-to-face meetings with the supplier.

Work at the relationship with your manufacturer or supplier
Once you have found a good manufacturer or supplier, it is important to not only establish a professional relationship with them but to work at building and solidifying that relationship so that it is mutually beneficial. You will have to develop a good one-on-one relationship with key people within the manufacturer or supplier’s business and determine which of the product offerings of your suppliers’ best suit your importing business. This will also provide you with vital insights and information regarding the quality of the seller’s product, product details and guarantees, as well as shipping conditions.

Understand the trade between China and South Africa
A significant aspect you must never take for granted when it comes to importing from China is the trade term or laws involving the two countries. It is a given fact that there are different rules and regulations that are implemented in different countries, and China is no exception.

Before you get excited and begin placing orders for products to be imported, you must first know the shipment terms, so as to avoid possible conflicts such as goods being forfeited by the Customs or violation of special laws. Though this is a lot of work, it can be easily done through a consultation with your logistics provider.

Hire a competent freight organisation
Hiring a competent forwarder and customs broker is the wisest decisions you will ever make when engaging in an importation business. This is because they can be relied upon when it comes to transportation and customs clearance, things you wouldn’t want to waste time on. In South Africa, it is easiest to use a logistics company with a preferred customs trader status, to ensure the process is smooth.

Understand the logistics
The import business thrives on logistics as it is a crucial component of ensuring that your products are presented to your market in a cost-effective, timely and efficient manner. However, this can only be achieved once you understand and have adequately researched the complexities, legalities and accompanying details that are involved in the import of products across international borders and from destinations such as China.

The opportunity for small businesses and entrepreneurs to import directly from Chinese manufacturers and suppliers has not always existed. It has now become possible partly because big businesses around the world have come to recognize Africa as a strong and emerging economic powerhouse. If export dependent countries like China must continue to grow, they will continue to sell more of their products to markets like Africa that have a growing consumption. Success in the importing business, even on a small scale, is determined by taking advantage of the different possibilities, needs, offers, qualities and markets that are provided by countries such as China. Africa is now one of the fastest growing markets for consumer products and China produces many of the high quality consumer products found in Africa.


China Homelife Fair and China Machinex is a proud Partner of the National Small Business Chamber (NSBC).