The value of alibaba is not in meeting vendors but knowing where to look for them

I have a new project sourcing suppliers in Mexico and Latin America ( I use the term Latin America here in the wide sense to include South America and all coutries where Spanish or Portugese are spoken). This project is on behalf of a client whom I had helped before, with some success, to find vendors in China and Indonesia. So they came to me and asked me to help them now in Mexico. I must admit that it is a new experience for me sourcing suppliers in Latin America. But already I have found it interesting. One big difference is that many suppliers in Latin America do not have English versions of their websites. In China most vendors have an English page. Let’s just say that I wish I had paid more attention in my 4th grade Spanish class.

Although I always advise against using alibaba to meet vendors, for the simple reasons that you really have no idea who someone is, the low costs are often tied to astronomical MOQs and there are probably a lot of agents posing as factories there, I do nevertheless find alibaba very useful for gathering info. I can sometimes get an idea of where suppliers for a certain product are clustered ( one way I use alibaba) and as is the case with the current project I can tell which countries in Latin America might be useful to target. You can do a search by global region, eg. Europe, Asia, The Americas etc and find out how many suppliers there are in each country in that region. So I can look at Latin America and get the breakdown of the number of suppliers for product A by country. I then know which countries to target and which to ignore. In this case Mexico and Brazil are the countries to target and the other countries are not worth my (or my client’s time). Some countries may have only a few suppliers listed on alibaba.

Another way to find out which countries might be worth targeting is to look at trade shows by country. I found for example that only Brazil and Mexico have substantial trade shows. Many of the other smaller countries in Latin America and even some of the larger ones may have just a few trade shows a year across all industries.. This is not to say you cannot find product there. Of course you can, but the lack of global commerce probably signals a lack of infrastructure. And a lack of infrastructure may not allow you to export your order smoothly It will just have the result of adding a lot of costs as your product travels down the supply chain.

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