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The Logistics Behind Shipping Memories from India to The States

Shipping Memories from India to The States: The Logistics Behind

Large quantities of goods are shipped every day from India to The United States of America. And there have never been more ways of getting hands-on Indian products abroad, with some easier than others.

A Slice of Home:

Thanks to globalization and a more open world, Indians have set their feet and settled in many countries. The United States is one such country with a flourishing Indian community. And no matter how galvanized one becomes with another community, the love for one’s own culture never leaves. So, it’s no secret that Indian goods have a fertile market in the western countries. Also, love for Indian food and culture among foreigners have further increased the demand for these goods in other countries.
And. Where there’s demand, there’s supply. So, Non-Residing Indians are getting their hands on products from India somehow. But How?

What’s for Sale?

People’s want for eating foods they grew up eating has created a mammoth demand for Indian food products abroad. A recent surge in love for Indian goods among foreigners only elevates this demand. It is for this purpose that a wide variety of Indian products traded in the western countries are related to food such as milk, spices, tea, sweets, pickles, and snacks, etc. Cosmetics with ayurvedic ingredients are also popular among the western folks. 

Also, since India produces some of the premium silk and cotton and the quality of fabrics found here cannot be replicated, consumers and businesses pay openhandedly to get their hands on these textiles.
Apart from that, there are always niche products being moved from India to abroad, such as specific Indian kitchen instruments and pans, religious and puja ingredients, etc. Now, that’s a lot of stuff that needs to travel from India to the hands of waiting Indians abroad. And that calls for elaborate logistics.

Crossing Borders:

Stats clearly show that Indians go to great lengths to acquire things that are exclusive to their culture and are willing to pay. And there are a few ways of doing it. There are various routes, of every scale imaginable, through which goods from India end up in the hands of consumers in other countries. While large-scale organized export does make a part of it, not everything ships this way.

A.    Overseas Retail Stores:

Probably the most common way of buying desi goods abroad, these retail stores are set up across the country, and they specialize in selling Indian goods. They are easy to locate, and one can find almost everything they need in these stores.
Such stores acquire the product in bulk straight from India and sell it at marked up prices. While being convenient and a great option for urgent needs, there’s a dark side to this business model.
The profits made by selling the goods at 300% of their original value is not shared with manufacturers. The majority of the profits of these goods are snatched up by the middle-men who buy goods in bulk from India at extremely low prices and sell it to retailers abroad at highly marked up prices.

B.    Online Stores:

Like everything else today, speciality Indian goods can be bought online from speciality Indian stores or (you guessed it!) good ‘ol Amazon. There are two ways this works.
The online store can either be just a virtual version of the retail stores, in which case prices will still be high, and manufacturers will not be supported still.
Or, the online stores belong to Indian companies and retailers who export the goods to the buyers at a ‘pre-order’ basis. Through these stores, customers can buy goods at comparatively reasonable prices while supporting the businesses who deserve to be.

C.    Traditional Shipping:

This refers to shipping the goods in individual packs from India to abroad using the common shipping and logistics services such as DHL, FedEx or UPS. For this, the buyer generally asks their relatives to purchase their goods in India and have them shipped to their country of residence.
While this might work efficiently, it can burn a hole in the wallet. Shipping costs are usually calculated by the weight of the package and its dimensions. So, if one is exporting some of the relatively less value but high weight say sweets or snacks, the cost of shipping will be multiple times that of the cost of the product itself.
This method is generally used for lighter goods (like traditional clothing) or at the time of emergencies and is not suitable for casual importing of everyday need items.

D.    Package Forwarding Services:

Package Forwarding Services is a relatively new concept in the shipping world and has thoroughly revolutionized small-scale international shipping. Through this, a consumer can purchase goods from Indian retailers (mostly online) at Indian prices and have them shipped at relatively low prices.

These are the common steps in any Package forwarding service:
  1. The customer acquires the Indian shipping address (typically a warehouse) from the package forwarder.
  2. The customer places the order and selects the package forwarder’s warehouse as the shipping address.
  3. Package forwarder handles the items and takes care of further repacking, consolidation or storage.
  4. Customers pay the package forwarding company for handling the items and international shipping fee.
  5. The package forwarder ships the package and customers receive it in a duration defined by the shipping method selected.

E.    Social Media Groups and Forums:

There are several groups and forums established in Social Media such as Facebook and Instagram which provide shipping services to individuals living abroad. These groups work in a similar manner as package forwarding services, but less formal and more connected.
The members of these groups purchase goods in India at the same time, and the shipper in India takes care of sorting and repackaging. The goods are then shipped together to a location in The United States from which it is shipped out to the customers.
Such services and groups provide the customer with the freedom to purchase whatever they would like, and not restrict them to the items available in stores abroad, whole quality can often be questioned.
The customers in these groups save money by shopping and shipping in bulk. However, there is always a concern about package safety and privacy when doing business with unregistered businesses. Therefore, customers are advised to only deal with established and well-known groups on social media. And stay away from groups that promise unbelievably low shipping prices as many groups have been terminated for carrying out frauds. The rule of thumb is: If anything seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Shop Wise:

Today’s connected world has more options than ever when it comes to acquiring goods from other countries. While some methods are simpler, others offer a better value. But no matter where you are purchasing your favorite childhood delights from, keep an eye on quality and the authenticity of the products you buy. It is not common to find lower quality goods such as spices and clothing from the so-called ‘specialty stores’ abroad, and imitations or fakes are more common than you think. So, shop with a keen eye and relive your cherished desi experiences, away from home.

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