Export/Import Updates!
October 23, 2020

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 33 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:       

B2B websites:

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. 

 

Trade directories:

A trade directory works like online yellow pages, where you can find listings of importers and exporters in a region, country or even across the world. Some websites with extensive trade directories include:

  • FITA.org: The Federation of International Trade Associations (FITA) has a directory of over 400,000 companies in North America.
  • GlobalTrade.net: This website says it receives a million visits a year from exporters and importers looking through its directory not just for buyers but also for freight forwarders, quality controllers, lawyers, accountants and so on.
  • Europages.com: This B2B platform serves as a directory for 2,600,000 companies from Europe. It comes in 26 languages. 

            

Website:

Apart from brand-building, a website is a great way to find buyers for your product. Use search engine optimisation (SEO) to increase your website’s visibility on Google. Refer to the previous section for website builders you can use.

Social media:

Similarly, the social media platforms listed in the previous section should be part of your strategy to find buyers. You can join import/export-related groups and communities or use the paid ads feature to reach new customers.               

Note: To know about offline ways to find buyers for your export business, refer to our blog here.


Where do I find trade finance? What are my options?

Trade finance is the lifeblood of the import-export business with 80%-90% of world trade dependent on it, according to this report published on the Exim Bank’s website. It defines trade finance as “credit, guarantees and insurance needed to facilitate payment for the merchandise or service on terms that satisfy both the exporter and the importer”. While trade finance services in India still have a way to go before they are fully digitised, there are quite a few online tools exporters and importers will find useful in their search for capital.            

Exim Bank: The Export-Import (Exim) Bank of India’s website has useful information on the types of loans and finance on offer, government guidelines on trade finance products under government schemes, and support services available to Indian companies to help them participate in projects funded by the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other such institutions.         

Commercial banks and non-banking financial corporations (NBFCs): Banks and NBFCs offer business loans, lines of credit, bill discounting facilities and other forms of trade finance. Visit their websites for detailed information on the financial products on offer and terms and rates.   

Others: There are non-traditional sources you can tap for trade finance. Most major shipping lines provide short-term loans, information about which can be found on their websites. Then there are online logistics service providers. Cogoport, for example, offers up to 120 days of credit for logistics costs under its Pay Later service. The best part – the process is entirely online. Finally, let’s not forget the major B2B platforms, such as Alibaba, that offer trade finance.

Note: You can also read our blog on post-shipment credit and how to find it here


How do I prepare and file trade documentation?

Documents are a necessary evil in global trade. There is no getting past filing shipping documents, applying for licences and certificates, or communicating with clients. Fortunately, there are more than a few digital tools that can help ease the process.     

ICEGATE: The electronic data interchange (EDI) gateway of Indian Customs, ICEGATE is the only website on this list whose use is mandatory for importers, exporters or their customs agents. It provides online services in connection with the customs clearance of import and export cargo, which includes facilitating trade documentation and the online real-time exchange of information between trading partners (traders, transport service providers, banks, regulatory agencies, etc). The documents filed on ICEGATE include:

Intertek: A “Total Quality Assurance provider” to industries worldwide, Intertek helps importers and exporters comply with regulatory standards in importing countries through quality inspections, safety testing and certification. Additionally, its auditing services identify risks in your operation systems. Visit its website for information about the services it provides and industries it covers. 

DocuSign: Being in the import-export business means dealing with hundreds of documents, most of which might require your signature. With DocuSign, you can sign multiple documents virtually from any device or application (Google Drive, Dropbox, Safari). DocuSign is one of the most trusted e-signature brands in the world.                  

Grammarly: Clear, accurate communication makes a world of difference in any business. Whether you are writing an email to a client, messaging your customers via social media or setting up your home page, it is important to pay attention to language, grammar, spelling and style. Grammarly is an online writing assistant that detects spelling, grammar, punctuation, word choice and styling mistakes.


Using these online tools makes all the more sense now with the Covid-19 pandemic having greatly restricted our mobility and changed the way we do business. These digital solutions will not only make the import-export process easier for you but even help you scale up your business in these trying times.


Exports
Imports
Editorial Team
Editorial Team
Customer success manager

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Export/Import Updates!

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