There are currently more than 10,000,000 Filipinos living outside the Philippines. Australia is home to the fifth biggest population of these overseas Filipinos, with the latter amounting to nearly 400,000 total Down Under. Now, if you’re the entrepreneurial sort, that is a very promising number.
Think about it. That’s about 400,000 Filipinos missing their mom’s kare-kare, craving the occasional tapsilog for breakfast, or in need of those quaint little molds for whipping up a batch of lola’s puto recipe.
And where, oh, where would these people get their supply of that glorious carbohydrate that no Pinoy can do without? (I’m talking about rice, by the way.)
Hence, there are now several Filipino shops and restaurants mushrooming in Australia, and by the looks of things, their niche market isn’t the only thing keeping them afloat. With Filipino cuisine being hailed as the next big thing, quite a few locals have been joining the crowds of Pinoy expats at these establishments.
So, by the looks of things, there is a lot of potential for a business importing goods from the Philippines into Australia. The question now would be, how do you begin?
1. Do your homework.
Ask yourself the following questions:
a.) Is the product already available in Australia? If not, is there enough demand for it? If it is, will you be able to sell it for less than the going rate?
b.) Is the product safe? (You may want to steer clear of importing things like firearms or explosives, but if that’s what you were after, you’re on the wrong website, mate.)
c.) Are there any prohibitions or restrictions on the products? (If you are importing fresh produce like fruits or vegetables, Australian customs usually has strict laws about quarantine before you can bring them in.)
d.) Are there any Australian-made products that could satisfy the same customer need/s that your imported product would?
e.) Will you have exclusive rights to import the product? If not, who else has rights to it?
The bottomline is, you need to see if you have a market for your product. After all, there’s no point in bringing in something that no one wants to buy.
2. Calculate how much you need to spend.
Apart from your supplier’s selling price, you also need to factor in freight charges (you’ll need to choose between air or sea freight), import taxes, insurance (in case your goods get lost or damaged), and customs duties.
These figures will help you accurately calculate your target profits and how many product units you would need to sell to get there.
Fortunately, there a number of tax concession schemes from the Australian Customs Service that allow you to import goods via deferred payment, at a concessional rate, or even for free.
You can also check the government’s Tradex Scheme for goods that are exempt from the goods and services tax (GST) and see if the products you intend to import qualify for this privilege.
3. Agree on a price with your supplier.
When you request for a quotation from your supplier, make sure you provide your exact product requirements beforehand: specifications (e.g., what color/s, size/s, flavor/s, etc.), quantity, packaging and delivery arrangements, and payment/trading terms.
It would also be advisable to ask for the price quotation to be reflected in Australian dollars (AUD), so you can avoid exchange rate fluctuations once the deal is well underway. Bear in mind as well that your supplier’s official quotation counts as a formal offer. If you accept, you would automatically create a legally-binding contract.
4. Be vigilant about your payments.
Be very careful about choosing your overseas supplier. Treat the process as though you were also purchasing a product locally, so try to ask for a product sample or at least speak face to face with your supplier before you go any further. You wouldn’t want to hand over money for an unseen product to a stranger now, would you?
It would also be wise to get as much advice as possible from governing bodies like banks, chambers of commerce, freight companies, and even experienced importers prior to negotiating your payment terms with the supplier. There are usually three ways to pay an overseas supplier, so think about which of these is the most advantageous for you: cash in advance, letters of credit (to be established between you, your supplier, and your bank), or via bank transfer.
5. Get through the red tape.
Plant, mineral, animal, and/or human products are all subject to inspection by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS). They usually refer to a set of guidelines to determine if your product needs to be quarantined and/or treated with a fumigant (I wonder if tuyo is subject to this. Hmmm).
The Australian Customs Service is in charge of regulating all the products that are imported into the country, and you would probably have to pay duties and taxes on certain goods (but do check if you’re eligible for some concessions).
As with migration, you can also seek the assistance of a third-party when dealing with import bureaucracy. Customs brokers can help you speed up the process of getting your goods through, but they charge a fee for this service so you may want to recalibrate your profit calculations if you decide to go down this route.
Getting into the import business is no picnic. You really need to do your research and plan things so that you lessen the considerable risks throughout the entire process. Yet if you do it right (i.e., source your product at a cheap or reasonable cost, bring it over without draining your bank account, get past Australian customs, and market it to lots of ready and willing buyers), you could very well create the foundation of a booming business empire.
Okay, maybe you won’t end up with an empire, but at the very least, you’ll get some extra cash and your own steady supply of tuyo whenever you’re craving a bowl of champorrado during the rainy season.