Global Sources started as a media company more than four decades ago, and has now evolved into both a leading supplier directory (2nd largest after Alibaba) and trade show.
This combination makes Global Sources unique, as it acts a hub for both buyers and suppliers – both offline and online.
In this interview, with Meghla Bhardwaj, head of content marketing at Global Sources in Singapore, explains why startups and e-commerce businesses should use their directory – and attend the upcoming trade shows and conferences in Hong Kong.
1. Meghla, please tell us a bit about yourself and how you started working at Global Sources
I’ve been working at Global Sources for about 17 years. I started in the India office where I wrote sourcing-related articles for our magazines, and managed the freelancer network there.
Then I moved to the Philippines office in 2003, where I led a team in Manila and China producing the company’s research reports, China Sourcing Reports. This is when I started traveling to China, touring factories and meeting with suppliers there.
In 2006, I moved to China where all the action was. I lived in Shenzhen for 9 years, where I visited hundreds of factories, worked with suppliers and buyers, and got a good understanding of how the supply chain works, and the issues buyers face when sourcing from China.
More recently, I’ve been working with Amazon and online sellers, trying to understand their pain points, and helping determine how Global Sources can meet their specific needs.
I’ve been organizing Global Sources Summit, a conference for online sellers sourcing from China. The conference is held every April and October and is co-located with our trade shows in Hong Kong.
2. Global Sources has been around since the early 1970s. Quite a bit longer than anyone else in this industry. Tell us a bit about the history of the company.
Global Sources was established in 1971 as a publisher of sourcing magazines. At that time, importers didn’t have too many information sources and our magazines were one of the few sources they had to keep up with the latest developments in supply markets.
With the rise of the Internet in the late 1990s, we launched our website, www.globalsources.com. In the early 2000s, we started organizing trade shows in Hong Kong.
Since the beginning, our goal has been to help overseas buyers find reliable suppliers in China and the rest of Asia. We spend a lot of time and effort verifying suppliers on our website and at our trade shows. Buyers tell us they find more export-experienced and professional suppliers on our website and trade shows.
For example, business registrations of suppliers are reviewed by independent third parties to ensure they are a legally registered entity. Companies that don’t have a valid business registration are not allowed to be listed.
In addition, we curate products to make it easier for buyers to identify new releases.
On the Global Sources website, and even at our trade shows, buyers will find “Analyst’s Choice” products. These are unique products selected by our in-house analysts.
Also, the website is vertically-specialized. Buyers can find a lot of editorial and curated product information on our industry-specific homepages listed in the left column of the Global Sources homepage.
3. Global Sources is both a supplier directory, and a trade show host. What kind of benefits does that provide to importers?
With Global Sources, buyers get the benefits of both online and offline sourcing. We call this “O2O” or “online to offline” sourcing.
For example, show visitors can preview and shortlist exhibitors before they come to the show, or online users can follow exhibitors on our website year-round to see the products they launch.
Exhibitors are generally considered more reliable because they have invested to participate at a show where they have put themselves out in front of thousands of buyers. This is a reason many buyers who source online prefer to buy from exhibitors.
Also, suppliers tend to launch or showcase their new and unique products at trade shows rather than online.
During our trade shows, we publish daily email newsletters, and livestream product demos on Facebook from the show floor. This helps buyers who’re unable to attend the shows see and source new products launched by exhibitors at the shows.
4. Many international buyers are only aware of the Canton Fair in Guangdong. What makes your trade shows in Hong Kong different?
The first thing buyers should consider when deciding which shows to attend is the product categories they’re focusing on. If they’re looking for electronics, our show is a must-attend because it is the world’s largest sourcing show for electronics.
Our Gifts & Home features a variety of curated and creative products, but it’s much smaller than Canton Fair.
Our Fashion show is the largest sourcing show in Hong Kong, and is more of a fashion event bringing together the eco-system including manufacturers, designers and service providers.
Apart from mainland China suppliers, buyers can find exhibitors from emerging markets such as India, Vietnam, Philippines, South Korea, etc.
In addition, all show exhibitors are verified by independent third parties such as D&B (Dun & Bradstreet), Ease Credit and Experian. Buyers can look for the Verified Manufacturer icon to identify suppliers who have been licensed by relevant government bodies to manufacture goods.
There are a number of special services for online sellers at all our shows. Global Sources Summit attendees can avail of a supplier matching service where we help identify suitable suppliers for them based on their requirements. There’s also an eCommerce Pavilion with exhibitors keen to do business with e-tailers.
If people are looking for high-volume, price-competitive products, they might find Canton more relevant.
Our shows are held in Hong Kong, which is generally more accessible to overseas buyers. Travelling to Hong Kong is more convenient and hassle-free. Most nationalities don’t need a visa to enter Hong Kong, which is not the case for mainland China.
There are many more airlines flying into Hong Kong than Guangzhou. Most people traveling to Guangzhou have to go via Hong Kong.
Most people (including most taxi drivers) in Hong Kong speak English, so getting around is easier.
Sign boards, restaurant menu cards and other information is also in English, which is mostly not the case in Guangzhou.
Apart from our shows, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council also hosts trade shows in the city around the same time, so buyers have a wider variety of suppliers to meet.
5. You also host the Startup Launchpad conference, in connection with the trade shows. What’s that all about?
Startup Launchpad is our trade show pavilion featuring innovative products from consumer electronics startups in China, Asia and the rest of the world. The pavilion is part of our Consumer Electronics trade show (Oct 11-14) and Mobile Electronics show (Oct 18-21).
Buyers can see new innovations and be the first to market these shelf-ready products.
A series of conferences that are free to attend are also held near the Startup Launchpad pavilion.
6. How do you think your trade shows and conferences will evolve in the future?
For one, the number of buyers attending trade shows to source for suppliers and new products will continue to increase. We also see an increasing number of smaller buyers, and online and Amazon sellers realizing the importance of attending trade shows. We’re seeing more online sellers attending the shows in big groups.
Furthermore, buyers are using O2O channels together for safer and more effective sourcing.
We believe that the future of shows is to help exhibitors and attendees benefit from online and offline services.
Our goal at Global Sources is to enhance the sourcing productivity of buyers, and one of the key ways we’re doing this is by integrating the benefits of online marketplaces and trade shows.
7. The trade shows season is coming up in about a month. Do you have anything to offer our readers?
Yes, absolutely. We’d like to offer your audience a discount of $50 on the ticket price of Global Sources Summit, our 3-day conference for Amazon and online sellers to be held Oct 17-19 in Hong Kong.
We have an exciting line-up of speakers and topics. The first day focuses on sourcing-related topics, while the second day’s presentations will cover how to increase online sales. On the third day, sellers can learn strategies to enhance the profitability of their business.
Advanced sellers are also invited to participate in a Mastermind on Oct 18, where they spend 2 hours with 4 e-commerce experts – Will Tjernlund, Danny McMillan, Sean Smith and Manuel Becvar.
Apply the code F2G50 when purchasing a ticket at www.globalsources.com/summit. People can also get an additional $100 discount per ticket if they purchase 2 or more tickets at a time.