35 Digital Resources you Need to Run an Export/Import Business
We live in the internet age where almost everything – be it information, services or products – is a mouse click away. Your import-export business need not be any different. At Cogoport, for instance, you can get instant freight rates and make bookings within minutes online. Similarly, there are digital tools available for almost every aspect of your export-import business – from finding buyers to arranging trade finance and much more. These are available easily and inexpensively and can make all the difference to the growth of your business.
If you are an importer or exporter, you would surely have asked yourself these questions at various stages of your business:
- How do I get import/export-ready?
- Where do I look for buyers for my goods?
- Where do I find trade finance, and what are my options?
- How do I prepare and file trade documentation?
To find out the answers, check out these 35 digital tools we have short-listed that are designed to help your business at these critical stages.
1. How do I get import/export-ready?
This stage is all about knowing your market and competition and creating opportunities for your business. And these are the digital tools you can use:
NiryatBandhu: Learn the basics with the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade’s online certificate programme in export and import management, under the Commerce Ministry’s NiryatBandhu scheme for mentoring entrepreneurs in international trade. The course runs five days a week for two hours daily and is reasonably priced.
Indian Trade Portal: Managed by the Federation of Indian Exports Organisations (FIEO), this website has information on tariffs, taxes, concessions, import-export policies, preferential trading agreements and import statistics of multiple countries, along with free online tools such as monthly e-bulletins and FAQs on relevant topics.
FIEO GlobalLinker: This is a platform for small businesses to network with fellow entrepreneurs across the world. Additionally, you can use GlobalLinker to create your free online store and digital catalogue, which will help your business gain visibility.
Farmer Connect: Farmer Connect, an initiative of India’s agricultural products export promotion body APEDA, helps exporters source farm products for export. Exporters can post offers to buy farm goods and find matching product enquiries from sellers on the portal, which also facilitates contact between buyer and seller.
Website-building tools: If you are an exporter, a website helps you promote your products, generate sales and much more. You can choose from a range of online services to build your website:
- Wix: Easy to use and ideal for beginners, it ranks among the most popular website-building tools for small businesses.
- WordPress.com: The world’s most popular website builder, WordPress has a wide range of themes and design layouts you can choose from.
- GoDaddy: The web-hosting company had 77 million registered domains – which is 20% of the global share – at last count.
- Fiverr: An online marketplace for freelance services, you can find developers who can create a website for you for a reasonable fee here.
- Upwork: The world’s largest freelancing platform, Upwork is another good place to look for a verified specialist to build your website.
Social media: The most easily available tool in your digital arsenal, social media is an effective way to advertise your products, get leads and spread the word about your business. We recommend you pick one or two platforms relevant to your market rather than using them all:
- Facebook: You can join one of hundreds of Facebook groups/communities built around the import-export business. It is also one of the few social networks that allows you to sell your products on its platform.
- Twitter: This micro-blogging website is also home to numerous import-export groups you can be a part of.
- Instagram: Another site on which you can advertise and sell your goods.
- YouTube: Create a YouTube channel for your business if you believe video content is what works for your market. Being on YouTube also helps improve your SEO and brand visibility.
- LinkedIn: Often called the “professional” social network, it allows users to create an online company profile, form business connections, network and keep tabs on competitors.
- Reddit: Bounce business ideas, find answers to questions, join common-interest communities on Reddit. It has discussions on every topic under the sun, including import-export.
2. Where do I look for buyers?
Now that you‘ve figured out the basics of the import-export business, the next step – for exporters at least – is to find buyers. We recommend you try out these online solutions:
Perhaps, the first order of business for a new exporter is to register with a business-to-business (B2B) website. You can find a buyer for any product on a B2B platform. And there are plenty of sites to choose from:
- Alibaba is a China-based B2B e-commerce company that is also the world’s third largest retailer after Walmart and Amazon. Apart from matching buyers with sellers, it facilitates direct communication between parties, offers export and logistics services and trade finance, and has a range of payment options.
- Tradewheel, based in the United States, is one of the fastest growing online B2B platforms despite being a relatively new entrant.
- Global Sources, a Hong Kong-headquartered B2B platform, claims to have more than 1.5 million buyers from 240 countries in its directory.
- DHgate is one of the largest Chinese B2B platforms and reportedly served 28 million registered buyers from 220 countries in 2019.
- Qoovee is a wholesale trading platform that brings together buyers and sellers across the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Asia and Europe.
- IndiaMART is reportedly India’s largest B2B platform with a 60% share of the Indian online trading space.
- Made in China, yet another Chinese B2B platform, offers you the option of giving prospective buyers a 360-degree virtual tour of your factory.
- TradeIndia offers payment protection plans, collateral-free business loans and payment solutions for exporters and logistics services.
- Exporters India is another popular Indian B2B website that comes with an Android app.