India Sourcing Trip by Megadi
12 - 19 October 2020 
New Delhi, India
Sourcing from India: What Amazon Private Label Sellers Must Know
With the ongoing China-US trade war and uncertainty surrounding it, many Amazon and eCommerce private label sellers are looking to India to source products.  Read on to learn more about the opportunities and pitfalls of buying products from India. 
Small and midsize factories dominate 
While China manufactures at scale, in India most factories are small and midsize. The government too favours SMEs and the country’s regulations are designed to protect them.

There are also tons of large enterprises, and these are mostly in industries such as apparel, textiles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, machinery, electronic components, auto & parts.

For most products relevant for private label sellers, the manufacturers would be smaller factories. Many factories are family-run businesses so don’t be surprised to see two generations attend a meeting with you if you visit their factory. 
Small orders are accepted
Suppliers are usually willing to cater to small orders, sometimes as low as 20 pieces. They may charge a slightly higher price for smaller orders. 

This is definitely a huge advantage for Amazon sellers, especially if you’re just starting out with a small budget or if you are an experienced seller and want to test a new product line. 
You’ll find unique products
There are specific product categories that are ideal to source from India.

India manufacturers put in significant effort into design development, and offer unique and innovative product designs.

In addition, the country has a large variety of indigenous styles of handicrafts that cannot be found in other countries.

India is the preferred source for cotton textiles and cotton-based products such as apparel, fashion accessories and furnishings. 

The country is the world’s largest producer of cotton and accounts for 26 percent of global production.
Here are a few key categories Amazon sellers can source from India: 

Home décor and home products (metal, wood, ceramic, cotton, jute):   
- Houseware, tableware, kitchenware
- Lawn and garden ornaments & accessories  
- Lamps and lighting  
- Furniture  
- Home furnishings and made-ups  
- Carpets, rugs & floorings 

Fashion:   
- Jewelry and accessories  
- Bags  
- Scarves 
- Precious gemstones 

Textiles & apparel: 
- Garments
- Furnishings 
- Cushion covers 
Macrame wall hanging made in India
Leather:
- Shoes 
- Bags  
- Belts 

Gifts & stationery: 
- Christmas & festive décor 
- Candles, incense sticks, potpourri, aromatics 
- Decorative gifts (including corporate gifts) 
- Stationery and paper including handmade paper

Eco-friendly products: 
- Cane, bamboo fiber, natural & eco-friendly products

The more adventurous can also consider food items such as tea and spices.
Your IP is safe(r)
Bottle covers made in India
In general, Indian suppliers have more respect for their buyers’ IP than typical Chinese suppliers. That doesn’t mean your IP will never ever be compromised, but it’s much less likely to happen in India than in China.

In the unlikely situation that your supplier does infringe your IP, and if you do have a strong contract in place, it is easier to take the supplier to court as legal proceedings in India are in English and the legal system is similar to other common law countries such as the US.  
Nothing is lost in translation
English is the second official language in India, and most people you will deal with at your supplier will speak English, some of course more fluent than others.

As there are 22 languages in India, each with its unique script, English is the language that unites the country! Generally, most Indians speak two languages – their own state’s language and English. 

This is extremely advantageous when it comes to communicating with your supplier, especially when you are developing or modifying a product to private label.  

Build relationships
When sourcing from India, take the time to develop a relationship with your supplier. Similar to China, it is common for suppliers in India to take their clients out for meals or arrange trips to visit tourist locations such as Taj Mahal. 

The Indian way of life is a bit slower and relaxed. As family and professional lives are not rigidly separated, you may get questions about your family, and may ask similar questions in return.

It’s common to have small talk before you sit down for business meetings. Safe topics for small talk are politics, sports, movies and India’s rich culture. Avoid talking about religious beliefs, as well as the conflict between Pakistan and India. 
Fabric factory in India
Hierarchy is important
Decisions are usually made at the highest level and hierarchy is important in Indian business culture. At smaller companies, decisions are typically made by the owner of the company or if it’s a larger company, by top managers, if they have been given the authority.

Day-to-day communications might become slower if your contact person needs to get authorization for various actions. 

When meeting someone face to face, introductions occur according to rank. Talk to the senior most person first, and seniority is determined by the person’s position within the company or their age. 
Deliveries may be delayed
Shipping products from India
India lacks developed Infrastructure like China’s. Roads are not as well developed and maintained as they are in China, customs and shipping are not as efficient and streamlined, and red tape can slow things down.

As an importer, you need to monitor your delivery times more closely. Unforeseen delays can happen so it’s always better to build in some buffer in your delivery times. 
Suppliers don’t have updated websites
Most Indian suppliers don’t maintain updated websites because they are afraid their designs will be copied by other suppliers!

They prefer sending their newest designs to buyers directly by email or exhibiting them at trade shows. In fact, suppliers are very protective of their designs and discourage videography and photography at trade shows. 
Production hubs specialize in specific materials 
Similar to China, there are production centers for specific products in India. But while Chinese cities tend to specialize in certain product categories, Indian cities specialize in materials and offer products across different categories in those materials.

Moradabad is a city that focuses on the manufacture of all types of metal products -- from home and garden décor, to hardware to cutlery. 

Similarly, Saharanpur has wooden products suppliers that make anything from gift boxes to furniture. 

Khurja is a city that focus on ceramic products, and Kanpur suppliers offer genuine leather products. 
Major trade show for Amazon sellers
Export focused EPCH Fair in Delhi, India
The most relevant exhibition for Amazon sellers to attend is the IHGF Delhi Fair that showcases gifts and handicrafts.

This fair has been held biannually since 1994 (Spring & Autumn edition) and is organized by Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts. 

The October 2019 edition will feature close to 3,000 exhibitors spread over 197,000 square meters. 
Mix business with leisure
India is an exotic country with a rich culture and a lot to explore. There are plenty of historical places, temples, mountains and beaches. It is also home to one of the Seven Wonders of the World – Taj Mahal.
If you do plan a sourcing trip to India, attend a trade show, visit your suppliers and then take a few days to go around and experience the country and culture.
  
Written by Meghla Bhardwaj, Founder of India Sourcing Trip and The Asian Seller.

Meghla has been working in the Asia sourcing industry for over 19 years. She has visited hundreds of factories in India and China and has a deep understanding of manufacturing and sourcing processes.

She is the founder of India Sourcing Trip, a unique guided Sourcing + Learning + Cultural tour to the Indian Handicrafts & Gifts Fair. Learn more about this first-of-its-kind trip at www.IndiaSourcingTrip.com.

She also runs a podcast for Amazon and eCommerce sellers, especially those based in Asia at www.TheAsianSeller.com.

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