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Home > Articles > Import in practice
Case study: the importer's story
Source: www.bigchina.eu 2008-11-15 16:52:27
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In the BigChina competition "The history of my import" there took part 290 histories. They all concerned China. The winner of the competition was Dariusz Szymecki from Rydultowy, Poland. Mr Szymecki won the major prize - 200 USD and Ted Plafker's book "Doing business with China". We congratulate on his victory cordially. His story can be read below.

My name is Dariusz Szymecki and I live in a Silesian town Rydułtowy. I had never thought that my life would change so much due to business relations with the countries of the Middle East. I had also not thought that after completing the electric technical school I would be working in trade and deal with import from China or India. It turned out to be the reality, however...

I graduated form the Technical School in 1999 and from January 2000 I took employment in a small firm which is a patronising warehouse of TONSIL till now. We deal with house acoustics, mainly industrial (including radio exposures of shops, churches, hotels, schools, and similar institutions). In the beginning, my job was connected with the function of a warehouse-keeper but quickly I moved to the office where I dealt with invoicing and other trade duties. My boss had a friend who had been importing electronic equipment connected with security systems for a longer time (cameras, vision and alarm systems, etc...). In this branch there is also a demand for exposures of small or big firms for information reasons, and for exposures of musical background or alarm systems. My boss's friend also offered us to overtake an acoustic department and start to import by ourselves.

Oh... big fear appeared in our eyes since we did not have any idea about how to start and approach it all. We received some contact data for the beginning but it was not all ... my level of English was not good enough, I didn't know how to start with transport and customs. What should be next steps after placing the order, on what conditions does the cooperation with the Chinese go, how to start with it all ... A lot of questions arose on our way.

Well, as I mentioned we received some information keys so in the beginning we did not look for the deliverers by ourselves but what would come next? So we were starting... Since my English was basic I was afraid to speak. I understood (and understand now) a lot, but without using the language and continuating the learning process I couldn't make any progress, unfortunately. I missed a lot of words and I still miss a lot ...however, I made the first step.

I wrote an e-mail to firms whose products I was interested in. I introduced myself and presented my subject of interest. I asked about the prices of particular products only on the basis of information taken from the Internet sites of particular firms. After receiving an answer I felt better. I was SATISFIED (just a bit, of course), the first steps were behind me - I got in touch with foreigners then. Wow, the first contact with CHINA. I didn't mention that my boss had chosen me to deal with all of that - that's why it was so relevant for me, as I wanted to fulfil my obligations in a best way: to deserve the best school grade: 5+.

When I received return mails with a preliminary unit process and amounts which I was supposed to order so as to test a given product, the next stage started. We analysed the products - what they were, what they could be and whether they were the right models. We chose with the boss a few models and ordered the samples. We made an agreement related to the consignment of samples and waited ...

With samples it is easier as for the transport but I was afraid of everything. They finally came. The fourth quarter of the year 2000 was coming.

We looked through the samples with the boss and rest of the team. We chose what we liked and stated that there would be a demand for it. At the beginning we selected a few products. Some radio-exposure amplifiers, loudspeakers and microphones. Since the calculation of price, transport and risk were up to the boss, I was only waiting for his decision concerning our next steps. In the meantime I was looking for a shipping company dealing in a complex way with all the sea and road freight and customs. I found a company in Warsaw (it turned out that it was the company recommended previously by my acquaintance), I asked about any costs from the moment of loading the goods till the time of delivering them to me to a store-house.

I passed on the values to the boss (then the whole cost of transport was about 15 do 20 thousand, depending on the size of the container and weight)... the boss made a decision - we order.

So I got in touch with the Chinese exporter and presented to him the amounts of goods I needed. Of course, there appeared invoice corrections since at that time I didn't already know what CBM is and what is the capacity of the container 20" , 40" or 40" HQ, etc.... After the elaboration of the final version of a proform bill, we agreed in the meantime the conditions of payment.

It stayed that we paid 30% of the invoice value to start the production (and production time may b various, depending on the firm, amount, etc... at that time it was about 45 days), the rest, namely 70% of the value was paid by us when we got information from the transporter that the goods had been already received and loaded on the ship. Of course, now I know the meaning of separate document names such as bill of lading informing us about the cargo, freight, delivery date etc.... then unfortunately all these ambiguities were explained to me by people from the shipping company who knew the subject matter. For me everything was strange, every expression or word abbreviation I had to check in the Internet which at that time in our firm was at the beginning stage (the boss was persuaded by us to buy a modem ... There was a very slow progress with mails and other problems with technical news, etc).

It all sounds very amazing and complicated... for me such it really was then. It was very difficult for me to go through all of it then. A lot of new notions had to be explained and functions fulfilled. Day by day there were more and more duties. Payment done... production begun... it was time to recognise where and how to dispatch the goods... ??

The firm has it head office in Rybnik and in the year 2000 there were still the premises of the Customs Office in our town (for the time being everything has changed and now we deal with the customs in Hamburg). I made an application in the Customs Office in Rybnik and introduced my plans. I asked them to help me and direct my actions. Of course, I had to find out what documents I would need from the exporter and what customs tariffs would concern my products. I gained all the necessary information and then just had to wait...

The transport was coming ... I explained the exporter what documents were required and I received them. At the shipper's I decided to have the customs transmissive, namely in Rybnik since we wanted to see to everything and in the case of inaccuracies or problems to react readily. The goods came over... they were delivered to Rybnik to the Customs Office... we waited nervously for what would happen next... of course, we had 100% of control over new goods (not known to the officers in Rybnik). We were prepared for this as we had been informed about what could happen. Everything was checked from A to Z...

And again, new experiences with new customs documents: SAD. My question was as follows: how to calculate it all in order to introduce the purchase, etc... Generally, as always in the beginning - it was very difficult. Such were my first experiences with China. Of course, I missed a lot as it is hard to summarise something which has brought so many emotions and experiences to my personal life.

Now I am going to jump over a little... to next relevant events. Of course, the first transports ended positively. The goods were well accepted on our national market. In the meantime, I trained myself in new fields which I was expected to know.

We were widening our range of products and we needed new contacts - so in order to gain them I visited together with my boss fair events and exhibitions concerning our acoustic branch: „Prolight and Sound" in Frankfurt and „IFA" in Berlin, among many others. We looked for new Chinese exporters and new products which would be interesting for us. Our impressions were enormous when we met the management of a given Chinese firm. I found out who I talked to or corresponded with and it gave me really a lot since earlier I had just sat in the office and written an e-mail to someone in the other part of the world.

There were more and more new firms. Of course, there were also more and more transports and, consequently, I had more and more duties. More firms mean more problems. The equipment imported was not always ideal or, in other words, it wasn't ideal from the very beginning. We had to work on our trademark and technical inaccuracies. Possible equipment disadvantages were supposed to be liquidated so as to make the product the best and satisfying the final customer.

Day by day I was more and more open in talks and correspondence with the Far East. In the Internet I searched for new firms which would be interesting for us. I ordered the samples of goods and catalogues. The firm was developing really great and one day in 2004 my boss decided that the best way to gain the best contacts and see how it all looks „from the background view" would be a travel to China and meeting with producers - to see the people, the factories which sell us the goods and how it all runs from the moment of my first sending an order.

The travel was not supposed to be an ordinary trip so we chose the term in which we could deal with something more than just meetings with firms we currently cooperated and also look for new opportunities. The best months for us were April and October. In these months there were fair events in China which interested us a lot (Electronical Fair in Hong Kong and Chinese Export Fair in Kanton, Guangzhou - so not only electronics).

We flew... of course, earlier we had a well prepared travel plan and all the meetings planned with the firms we worked with. The boss's decision concerning the flight was strengthened by the fact that he had met a man who could speak Chinese perfectly and we could rely on him as a translator - so not only because it is the country of amazing surprises. We were well prepared for them...

It was the journey of my life. I could see from near how the factories producing my products looked like. I could meet a lot of amazing people, their customs and culture. It all strengthened our cooperation with selected firms. Impressions and memories were and still are amazing. This journey allowed us for a detailed selection of products and the choice of new models which I would not get at Poland. The Chinese Fair widened our horizons in connection with cooperation, action possibilities, technical knowledge and not only. It was all very useful since at the moment of Poland's joining the European Union on 1 May 2004, our law imposed a sustainable barrier of demands which were supposed to be fulfilled by the equipment imported by my firm and introduced into the European trade market. I was already partially prepared for it. I had to deal with the proper certificates coming from laboratory examinations in the proper notification units etc.

It all had to be compatible, since in the moment of control there was no mercy and the penalties were serious. Again I put new notions into my head (the CE declarations, WEEE, directive assignment, etc); there were many of them.

Further travels to China enabled me to elaborate at place all the details and liquidate everything which wasn't and isn't consistent with the law. I must admit that all of that is amazingly impressive and gives me a huge satisfaction. I can try myself in something new.

Now I cooperate with various shipping companies. I have a lot of exporters and work on various cooperation conditions among firms. In some firms there are payments done before the production and in others, since there is a long-lasting trust, the total sum is paid after the production process. In some other firms there is a half for and half way, 30% for 70% way solution and a few other ways. Transport is paid by my side or by the exporter's side. We cooperate not only with China but also with Taiwan and India, and import not only industrial electronics and acoustics but also furniture. I have a lot of friends whom I trust - I let myself call friends the people I met in China - and an interesting job.

Of course, there are not only positive sides, but problems too. These are such as the drowning of the ship, some goods' loss, documents not sent on time, problems with office concerning the change of a customs tariff code or stoppage of the container and the lateness of the ship ... Oh, there is a lot of against and I could write and talk about it for hours. About how it was in China and what my flight gave me. How fair events in Europe helped me. How the firm started to develop, whether the goods were perfect or perhaps horrible, what risk we took, what were warehouse numbers, accuracies in orders and the lack of them, elaboration of service and replacement parts, satisfaction of customers and also dissatisfaction, employment of new workers, development of the firm's Internet site and all technical matters ... etc....

I could write very much here, but I think that I have already written a lot. I just had to write a story concerning the Chinese import. And I wrote some kind of an elaboration ... hi hi hi.

I ‘ m sorry for a chaotic writing style but I threw out of myself what just came into my head. I didn't think over this writing a week or two ago but today I came cross your site totally by accident and became interested in the title of your competition. I just thought: „I can try" and would share with my feelings and what I went through. Although I don't think that I managed to do it to the very end in such a way that I wanted, I presented my story to you at least a bit and in a shortened form.

To sum up:
To all who are interested in going through an adventure and those who have a good idea for a product which would fit into the final receiver's expectations I would recommend a „play" with import, although there are many difficulties and questions connected with it. They will all become explained and disappear - and then the whole situation and firm development will be a huge surprise. Such was my case.

I'm writing it for those who would like to import small numbers of goods to sell them off by Internet portals, as well as for those who possess big firms and would like to deal with import by means of the whole containers as they see future opportunities and good wages in this business.

I was really afraid - there are things which we may be afraid of but after getting over it with someone's help or by means of self-work we can see only SATISFACTION. Perhaps I simplified it all and those who would like to describe it in detail may protest now but it had to be my history and such it really was. These were my real experiences.