Michelle Low Chew Tung, managing director of Inveni Business and Technology Limited, says China’s currency devaluation will be important to business people who are currently sourcing goods from China and others who have kept a watchful eye on economic developments in China with the intention of importing from that country.
And despite the fact that the “Made in China” label has been showing up on goods on store shelves in Trinidad and Tobago for as long as anyone can remember, she says, the reality is that sourcing from China has many unique challenges. These include finding capable, reliable and trustworthy manufacturers and suppliers who can consistently manufacture and supply high quality goods at competitive prices.
Low Chew Tung says finding that reliable, capable and trustworthy supplier is a daunting task for the new importer and even the more experienced supply chain manager. She wants eager prospective buyers to know that they can use the resources of her company to guide them through the hazards of doing business in China.
She says that the familiar label “Made in China” has meant that the goods are really cheap but quality is also an issue and she tells her clients that, “In China you can get any quality that you want, it is dependent on what you want to pay for. So while exports are cheap, you can get more value for your money.” She says cheaper means that the client now has more buying power in terms of his money, in terms of getting the kind of product that he wants.
She says despite this country’s long history of dealing with China there are still instances where business people venture there and place their order only to have the wrong thing arrive “and they have lost money when the goods arrive and it is not the quality that you want.” She said there have also been instances of this happening in the chemicals sector. “They go so far as contacting a supplier, getting a sample, placing an order and when it arrives in Trinidad it’s not what it was supposed to have been.” She is placing her company and its resources at the disposal of such persons. She says that the company held a product sourcing seminar at the Marriot Hotel, Wrightson Road, last year and surprisingly realised that there are a lot of local businesses which are interested in going to China but they don’t know “how to navigate the waters.
When I get there, what do I do? Which fairs do I need to go to?” The company is registered in Trinidad and Tobago and Low Chew Tung says she has a network of associates in China. She said Inveni and its associates work without restriction all over China.
“Everybody is multi-lingual because you have to be able to speak not just Mandarin, which is the business language, but the local dialects depending on the province in which you are operating. The international trade experience is there and everyone that we use on the ground is highly qualified and has been operating in the market for a long time.” She said this is where Inveni Business and Technology Limited can provide a service. She said the company provides quality inspection from production to pre-shipment, container loading supervision and everything that is necessary to ensure the client in Trinidad and Tobago gets the product which has been ordered.
“So that we provide a complete end-to-end solution for you: we find the supplier, we evaluate them, we provide you with a supplier verification report, then from there we get into sampling.” She said the company also does factory-direct orders. However, she said some people who want to trade with China eagerly note that the market has opened up and say they want to do business but they only want small quantities. “China is not where you go when you are looking for small quantities, we know that. You have to do bulk purchasing, that’s where the cost savings are.” She notes that at least three of her associates have been to Trinidad and her main business partner has been visiting Trinidad and Tobago regularly for the last seven years. “So they have a pretty good understanding of the Caribbean culture, what it is we are looking for and how we operate as a people.” The company also does customised trade tours in which it will take to China representatives of businesses which are interested in meeting with suppliers and seeing their factories. She said Inveni has just taken a team from one of the country’s largest conglomerates on a tour of business prospects in China, “and they were totally, 100 percent satisfied. It really was a fantastic experience.” She said the local company’s representatives had found their suppliers and were getting their quotations, preparing to do quality inspections once the quotations were approved and then to begin shipping the product.
With she and her partner having backgrounds and qualifications in tourism she said they are able to provide visa assistance, translation services and are able to book all hotel accommodation and air and ground transportation as well as provide travel and tourism tours for the delegation.
She said that since last year’s seminar the company had received some leads and business from companies which had ventured into the market and were burnt “and they now need assistance in terms of going back.” Inveni operates in several industries and can source any of the following: •Office furniture and stationery •Fashion fabrics and garment accessories •Hotel and restaurant supplies and equipment •Carnival costume accessories and raw materials •Healthcare disposable products and medical equipment •Corporate gifts and promotional products •Airline travel articles •Construction material •Safety equipment and supplies •Manufacturing commodities •Other consumer products