How to find Buyers: Part I - Know your Buyer

Every week I receive quite a few enquiries from enterprising exporters

- How do you get so many overseas trade inquiries for Indian products ?

- Please tell us how can we find genuine importers for our products ?

People, very eager and enthusiastic to know whereabouts of buyers - genuine importers who are serious and most likely to buy their products.

While it is true that number of business transactions through Internet is rising rapidly - it is equally true that there is no short-cut to established business processes. Internet makes our life that much simpler by providing a cheap, reliable and convenient mode of communication. However, beyond that it is still that much of hard work in product sourcing, quality control, marketing, business correspondence, negotiation etc. etc.

The point I am trying to make is that - selling your product in international market is a long drawn, systematic process. It is not as simple as getting a list of buyers through Voodoo magic or as difficult as Rocket Science - but accomplishment of simple, well-defined, systematic jobs that will result in a gradual increase in your overseas business over a period of time. Hard work and perseverance are the requirements of the day - no quick fix solutions !

Now, to answer our original question 'How to find buyers' - we need to first understand who are your 'buyers' and exactly what do they want from you. Understanding their profile will not only help you in finding the likely places where they can be traced but also to offer right mix of product and price as also clues on how to negotiate successfully.

There are mainly following 6 categories of organizations/ people who are likely to buy your product directly or indirectly:


Pharmaceutical formulation manufacturer looking to source bulk drugs, garment manufacturer sourcing fabrics etc. fall in this category. The buyer is generally well aware of import procedures, pricing etc. Volumes are usually large and negotiation takes time to materialize. Since the material will be used in-house, buyer may provide own specifications. It is not uncommon, when buyer may decide to enter into collaboration with supplier with buy-back agreement. Buyer seller relation is comparatively on solid footing (i.e. buyer does not look for alternate supplier if seller does not commit major bungling or goof-up).

We know quite a few overseas manufacturers who have developed lasting relationship with Indian suppliers through initial contacts at site.


Usually a hardened international buyer who knows the ins and outs of product he/she is buying. The buyer generally has well-developed distribution line in his country to dispose off imported products quickly. Generally sensitive to price, looks for alternative often. Volumes are almost always large - container size at least. May ask for credit after a few transactions.

At, we constantly track this type of buyers who do not mind testing new suppliers if price and quality is acceptable. It is not difficult to track them if you know the usual market places where these people go for new supplier.

Retail Chains/Supermarkets, Large Brands

These are organized buyers who have well developed sourcing offices and trained manpower in exporters' countries. Very particular about quality, delivery etc. Takes quite some time in negotiation and order placing. Considered very valuable clients by exporting community in general.

Small Retailer

Before the advent of Internet, small retailers were happy to buy from wholesalers in their own country as importing in small quantity did not make economic sense. There were well-defined distribution channels where retailers used to make reasonable profit by buying from wholesalers.

By its very nature, Internet has reduced the levels of distribution in significant amount by removing intermediaries. Thanks to cheap and convenient communication medium like Internet and e-mail, small retailers, specially in North America, are now coming directly in contact with sellers in developing countries and buying products in small quantity. The risks are higher than buying from local wholesaler, but profit margin is far too high. And, there is no dearth of small exporters who do not mind supplying in small quantity to retailers directly at higher than market price. These are usually small purchase but at regular intervals. The margins are also higher. has probably the largest number of small retailer/importer in its database of buyers.


Typically, these are representatives of large commodity buyers who are constantly looking for new sources and lower prices. They represent buyers who have the money to buy from one continent and sell at another. North America (Canada and the USA) have plenty of them. The buyers usually bid for international tenders or secure orders through their own means and source the products from international marketplace at a price that can give them healthy profits. Brokers are usually nearer to actual buyers while a mandate usually represents a broker.

One needs to be aware of the status of the broker or mandate - mandates have limited power and prove ineffective in many cases.

We are in regular contact with a large number of such broker/mandates who use site to source products


Agent/distributors are not really buyers - they represent you in a foreign country where you are not able to sell directly. Because of their intimate knowledge of local market, Agent/Distributor is considered a formidable part of any export campaign.

Agents know the buyers and represent you as your sales representative. They usually book orders from local market and collect commission from sellers. While Agents work on case to case basis, Distributor stocks your products in anticipation of sales and usually carries higher risk (and consequently margin) than agents.

Recognizing the importance of agent/distributor in export campaign, started a separate section for them and started vigorous campaign to identify and invite commercial agents towards Indian products couple of years back. Today, large number of Agents from Europe, Latin America and other counties visit site regularly and post inquiries.

There are other categories of buyers, however we have considered only those considered significant in the context of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SME).

Having identified the main categories, we shall discuss how to reach individual entities in each category in subsequent articles.

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Source: FAIDA - Newsletter on Business Opportunties from India and Abroad Vol: 2, Issue 31 January 10' 2002

Author : Dr. Amit K. Chatterjee
(Amit worked in blue-chip Indian and MNCs for 15 years in various capacities like Research and Information Analysis, Market Development, MIS, R&D Information Systems etc. before starting his e-commerce venture in 1997. The views expressed in this columns are of his own. He may be reached at )

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