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How to Import Small Quantities: A Guide for Startups in 2020

Handling Multiple Suppliers with small MOQ can be Expensive. Order Consolidation into a single Order can Save up to 50% on your Logistics Cost.

Many startups use Air Parcel, Express Courier or LCL shipments for their small order and the Hidden costs, customs clearance fees, and Pickup charges make it very expensive. Once Right Solution is to hire a consolidator who would combine all you small shipments into one and ship them together. We shall do a Case study analysis on the whole process and cost analysis.

We are going to Answer the Following Questions.

  • How to Import Multiple Products & Small orders from China?
  • Do you order small volumes from many different suppliers? You might be wasting thousands of dollars on exorbitant LCL shipping fees.
  • Multiple Shippers with One Bill Of Lading: Is It Possible?
  • How to Ship Multiple Different Products in the Same Container?

Combined multiple orders can save you a lot of money.

When it comes to sea freight, there are two types of shipments:

FCL: Full Container Load
One container with goods for one importer. This is the cheapest option.

LCL: Less than Container Load
‘Mixed’ containers carrying goods for several importers.

LCL can be 2 to 3 times more expensive, per shipped unit, compared to FCL. The fact that the administrative cost (which makes up a big part of the total shipping cost) is as high for an LCL shipment as an FCL container.

Hence, you can save quite a bit of money if you combine several individual LCL shipments into one single FCL shipment.

Mixed Container Service: We have come up with a hybrid model where we will mix your goods with other clients and make an FCL and ship them to India. This is still cheaper than LCL almost 1/2 the cost of LCL in many cases.

Following are the Important Steps how that works.

1. Buy according to FOB or FCA terms from all suppliers

Your cargo cannot leave the country without export clearance documentation. There are two ways we can obtain these documents:

Option A: Order FOB or FCA
FOB stands for Free on Board (Export documents and shipping to the port), while FCA stands for Free Carrier (Export documents, no shipping).

Each supplier will provide export clearance documents.

Option B: Order EXW
The suppliers will not provide the export clearance documents. Instead, this is managed by Our Export company.

The second option can be complicated, as the export documentation shall normally be issued by the supplier. This is not always easy when it comes to lithium batteries and other hazardous goods.

2. Coordinate delivery to our warehouse

All shipments must be forwarded to the same port of loading. You can do this in three different ways:

Option A: Order according to FOB terms
This means that each supplier book transportation to the port of loading, for example, Shenzhen. The FOB charges vary, depending on how far the goods must be transported.

When you ask for a ‘regular’ FOB quote, the supplier quotes based on the closest port.

Hence, we need to instruct the supplier to:

a. Provide an FOB quote that includes transportation to a specific city
b. Make sure that they declare that port as the port of loading

Option B: Order according to FCA terms
FCA includes the issuing of export clearance papers, by the supplier, but the cargo is not transported from the factory to the port of loading.

This also allows you to make sure that the goods are properly insured when transported from the factory to the port of loading.

Option C: Order according to EXW terms
EXW does not include any transport charges hence they will quote you the lowest price. We will instruct each supplier to book transportation to our dedicated warehouses where we will carefully load all the goods in container and export them.

Hence, we need to instruct the supplier to:

a. Provide an EXW quote that includes transportation to a specific city
b. We shall not require any Export documents from the suppliers…

Ideally, small factories or products that do not have drawback benefit from the Chinese government are Exported by EXW, as factories producing has no benefit of exporting drawback they might opt for an easier option.

3. Make sure to sync production between suppliers

Manufacturers have a tendency to delay orders. Sometimes for weeks.

If one supplier delays production, all other shipments will be delayed.

While it’s impossible to predict exactly when the production is finished, we need to sync your orders to avoid long term delays.

As such, products with longer lead times must go into production, several weeks before those with shorter production run times.

You should also have at least a 2-week buffer for potential delays.

4. Combine the cargo as one DAP or DDU shipment

Once all shipments arrive in the port of loading, we can load the goods in the same FCL container.

We will also issue the bill of lading, commercial invoice and packing list.

This is based on the export clearance documents issued by each supplier, or by the forwarder itself.

This can take a few days extra when involving many different suppliers.

Do you need help with shipping and customs?

We know how hard it is to understand the shipping and customs process, especially if you have never imported from Asia before. To help startups get a grip on the process, and avoid scams and overcharging shipping agents – we created the Starter Package:

Our Mixed Container Service leaves every 4-8 weeks from China. We just need a Proforma Invoice and Purchase Contract from your supplier along with the Packing list with Space Volume (CBM) and Weight (KGS) details. We shall allocate space for you in our next available container.

With a minimum order of USD 8000, we combine that with the orders received from other customers so you have your cost savings on your order.  Following services are included:

  1. Container Loading
  2. Repacking
  3. Load Securing
  4. Container Handling
  5. Warehousing & Co-Packing
  6. Container Discharge

Our Next Mixed Container Leave in


  1. Multiple Suppliers with General Repacking
  2. Consolidation of Online Suppliers with Original Packing
  3. Inspection of Orders from Multiple Suppliers from the Same region.

guide, import, quantities, small, startups

Maulik Shah

Maulik Shah has been importing from China for over 16 years, He has helped more than 1000's of startups in Importing from China. He has in-depth knowledge and experience in sourcing a broad range of products. Find out how to Import from China to India Risk-Free from your Best sourcing Partner.

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