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Sourcing with Steve

Our mini-series about sourcing in India opened up with Steve talking about some of the potential that India has for brand builders. If you haven’t had a chance to read that check out PART 1 right now.

Sourcing in India Part 2

Here in Part 2 we’re going to go deeper on why sourcing requires actual effort. In spite of what would have you believe there is more to sourcing than a simple search. We agree that the process of discovery begins with a search to find prospects, but finding those prospects is only the start of the process.

That list of prospects needs to be investigated to determine who are the viable candidates for the product that is in development.

As a point of reference the SymoGlobal sourcing process diagram is shown below:

Sourcing in India

Once the prospect list is narrowed down the final candidates can be qualified further and only then is the consideration of investing time on site given. Visiting every factory that says they make that item is not only physically impossible it is unnecessary. Every vetting process will uncover different aspects of working with a supplier that are important to understand, but only come with actual back and forth discussions. This is the same process that Kevin King and and I use for too.

All of this is to say that a search is a great way to start, but if you are going to find something lasting and profitable you must be prepared to go deeper. Even if you start out with a less arduous process, which is normal, you will undoubtedly evolve over time and you can use the process chart above to accelerate your learning.

Sourcing is a function – it’s a tactic, but discovery is a strategy.When we started international discovery 20 years ago people thought we were crazy.

After all it was not a common practice for relatively small companies to go overseas to source products. (Sales back then were between 2-4M per annum)

And because we were either oblivious to common practice or perhaps too dumb we didn’t stop with product discovery. (Product Sourcing)

We also set up an office in Manila because talent discovery was vital to us too. We had to source talent (People Sourcing) because we simply couldn’t grow fast enough in the local market.Decades later the strategy has paid dividends again and again.

Sourcing Talent in India
Meeting the leadership team for engineering is part of my stop over in Mumbai. Talent matters.

The tactics change from time to time, but they have to be aligned with the overall strategy – that is what delivers a sustainable outcome.

The point is that instead of being consumed by tactics be sure that the combination of those tactical decisions will help you achieve your strategic purpose; that’s when the fly wheel really spins!

Sweat Equity

Long days on the road and in the air are the ante to be at the table.

As a direct result of a 18 hour day I found one of the most promising factories in a category that I have seen in the last 15 years. And although I knew the company name – I did not understand their capabilities and I would never have believed they could achieve the automation and technology at this level without seeing it for myself.

This factory is world class in every way and can stand up to the best factories in its category anywhere on planet earth. In fact in more than one respect they have technology and abilities that exceed their global rivals. To be clear: BETTER than CHINA, but also better than the USA or EU.

The arduous schedule and unrelenting movement are worth it on virtually every trip I’ve made.

Smog in Delhi
The day started in the dark at 5:30am and ended past 2:00am. Suck it up cupcake and get on with it.
Delhi Air quality
And the conditions are not always ideal. In Delhi the pollution is so thick you can see it even indoors.

Your Results May Vary

During long days it’s not uncommon to ask yourself throughout the day, why am I waiting at an airport AGAIN? Why is this delay or that obstacle something that I signed up for? These moments of self reflection are normal. They must however, be managed. Moving from WHY ME toward LUCKY ME is a critical part of staying flexible and happy on these journeys.

Anyone who is fortunate enough to have these experiences should reflect with absolute gratitude on how lucky we are. Although this may seem to be disconnected from the mission of finding a winning factory partner it is absolutely part of the same mission. Your mindset and ability to remain calm and to simply go with the flow is, in my opinion, the difference between being anxiety ridden and making poor decisions.

Beyond the business decision, especially when traveling to developing nations we should reflect on our own prosperity and appreciate what we have. India, like many other developing countries, faces challenges. We drove past countless slums and families living under a bridge or by a railway station which is part of their day to day life. The children grew up there not knowing any difference and not expecting the chance to break free.

The opportunity that global trade brings to India are immeasurable. India could create a Golden Century for the India people if they focus their efforts as a nation towards projects and investments that yield self sustaining returns on investment. The chance to bring hundreds of millions out of extreme poverty is real and something that should not be missed.

Sourcing in India
A rural area with shops and commerce of all kinds.


In closing of Part 2 – remember that sweat equity was named from actual sweat required to accomplish a job. Real effort is necessary. There is no secret hack – without increasing risk.

As a sidenote: none of this means that you can not be successful before you undertake a significant series of actions like those demonstrated in the India sourcing series. I didn’t start this way. We found sourcing agents and trading companies and we built towards a large volume which creates both new resources and new requirements to maintain a sustainable structure. This means that you don’t have to do what I am doing to be successful. This series is intended to share the experiences we have so that you can, after taking into consideration your own context, then make decisions about your process, ideas, and evolution. Ideally this will be a help for any private label seller interested in building a brand. Amazon FBA sellers, ebay sellers, Wayfair merchants, and any other marketplace seller or direct website selling including Shopify need to understand process and then implement in a way that serves their interests.

Part 3 will share a summary of the lessons learned and the share the ROI we believe this trip may represent in the future.