As a Nation with little manufacturing activity, New Zealand’s businesses must depend on international trade for survival but the significance of importers, wholesalers and distributors cannot be overemphasised.
While the Government battles with the problem of balance of payments frustrated by the widening gap between exports and imports, a large number of importers are constrained to cope with the challenge of cash flow, slow settlement of invoices by customers, increasing competition (some of them cut-throat) and an overall depressed market.
Harman Impex (NZ) Limited Director Manjeet Singh Chawla said the adverse effects of a woeful financial market and global recession have been telling since the end of 2008.
“The past two years have been particularly challenging. While businesses and retail outlets that form our customer base are happy to receive increasing quantity of food items, some of them have been tardy in settling our invoices. While we understand the market situation, non-payment disrupts our payment cycle as well,” he said.
Mr Chawla, who manages the business with his wife Harneet (Mini), likes precision in all activities, probably because he began his engineering qualification, which led to his initial business eight year ago as supplier of engineering products and services.
But he soon discovered that New Zealand, with its small market, did not offer the necessary potential for growth.
Encouraged by the growing market for food items, and encouraged by his wife, he launched into the food industry.
“After all, Indore (his native city) in Madhya Pradesh is known for its hospitality and food industries. Savouries (often referred as ‘Namkeens’) and Sweets are among the specialties of this region,” Mr Chawla said.
He was sure of the product but not the market and hence imported ‘Aakash Namkeen’ to test its acceptability. Engineering products continued their entry but the company was eager to venture into food items.
He need not have worried. Quality, consistency in supply, good service and appropriate pricing are among the ingredients that make the recipe of success. Soon the market began to accept the products imported by Harman Impex and they became the favourites of almost all ethnic groups for their exclusive taste and variety.
The Growth Factor
“We were not sure if these products would have continued acceptance and hence began with limited supply. But progress has been swift and the current order is four containers a month. We can mention with pride that Harman Impex is today the largest authentic importer and wholesaler of Indian grocery in New Zealand, with a warehouse facility for 15 containers in Mt Roskill,” Mr Chawla said.
He is proud of his association with Reliance Industries, India’s largest, multi-billion dollar business conglomerate.
The company’s growing involvement in the food industry has seen several new products hitting the world markets.
Mr Chawla said Harman Impex would bring a range of fruit drinks including Mango, Guava and Mango Pulp from this month.
“WE believe in the quality, durability, accessibility and regularity of supply of products from India,” he said.
Although the Indian Government has removed restrictions for international trade and streamlined procedures, importers continue to encounter a number of difficulties.
According to Mr Chawla, the restrictions placed on export of grocery is hurting overseas business such as Harman Impex.
“I wish the Indian Government was more considerate. We have however expanded our range to provide variety and uninterrupted supply to become more acceptable in the market. Our Company is the distributor for more than 15 branded products from India. We import only authentic export material to meet the international standards of quality,” he said.
The New Zealand Government, in the name of ‘freedom of choice for customers,’ allows parallel imports, which inundate the market.
“These hurt authentic importers like us and create price war. This is not a healthy trend,” Mr Chawla said.
Mr Chawla is a devout Sikh and true to the tenets of Sikhism, believes in service to the community. He said Herman Impex would import, source and supply any material that may be required by community and religious organisations including Gurdwars, Temples and Mosques.
“We will do so at cost price, without any prejudice,” he said.
The fledgling restaurant business in New Zealand has encouraged Mr Chawla to consider new range of products and processes.
“We will shortly launch a wide range of kitchen items for restaurants, takeaways and similar outlets. These will include Tandoors, Cutlery, Copper utensils and vessels,” he said.
Harnam Impex (NZ) Limited
The Product range
Aakash Namkeen and Sweets (Indore)
Branded products including Cooking Oil, Cosmetics, Pooja and other items
Chandan Mouth Fresheners (Swastik Industries Mumbai)
Daawat Basmati Rice (LT Foods, New Delhi)
Everest Spices (S Narendar Kumar and Company, Mumbai)
Ferns Curry Pastes, Pickles and condiments (N Fernandes, Pune)
420 Papad Range and Instants Mixes (Agarwal Papads, Indore)
Gits Instant Mixes, Heat N Eat and Namkeens (Gits Foods, Pune)
Hampa Pickles, Pastes, Chutneys and Mango Pulps (Harshad Mango Products, Surat)
Himalaya Herbal Supplements, other cosmetics and soaps
Incense Sticks, Dhoop Sticks (MEM Corporation, Mumbai)
Lentils, Pulses, Gram Flour, Rice Flour and bulk items (Adarsh Global, Indore)
MDH Spices, Kasuri Methi, Vermicelli and other items (MDH Spices, New Delhi)
Paanparag Paan Masala (Paanparag Ltd, Kanpur
Parampara Instant Gravy Mixes (Parampara, Pune)
Pillsbury Wheat Flour (General Mills, Mumbai)
Silver Coin Wheat Flour (Ashirwaad Wheat Flour, Indore)
Reliance Industries Mango, Guava Drinks, Mango Pulp
Tandoor, Cutlery, Copper and other utensils for restaurants and takeaways