It was a cold February evening when Paramjit Kohli first came to Bremen from India – and he loved it immediately. Read on to find out why he founded a company here and what lessons he has learned over the past year.
We find ourselves in an office at the World Trade Center (WTC) in Airport-Stadt Bremen. Three desks and a load of bags, promotional gifts and disposable plates and cutlery take up much of the 35 square metre space. We are warmly welcomed by the two-man team of New Idea Crafts GmbH. I ask managing director Paramjit Kohli how he ended up in Bremen. He smiles and tells me his story.
From India via China to Bremen
Born and raised in India, business graduate Kohli has been selling bags made by a Chinese textile company for twelve years. His work takes him to Zhejiang province, south of Shanghai, several times a year for meetings with his business partner, Jingyan Zhu. They had previously been working in international trade for some time, but the time difference was always an issue. Orders would arrive in China in the late evening or at night during the usual business hours in Europe and the US. This meant that queries were not answered until the following day, and a lot of time was lost. The solution was to have an office in Europe.
But where? It needed to be central and in a country with a stable economy, and Germany was quickly identified as the ideal location. Zhu contacted Wang Lu, who works in the overseas office of Bremeninvest in Shanghai.
Both Zhu and Kohli felt very positive about the information on Bremen that Lu provided, and decided to take a closer look at the city on the river Weser. In February 2012, Kohli and Zhu flew to Frankfurt and took the train to Bremen, where they hoped to speak to potential partners and make new business contacts.
Tired from the long journey, they both got off at Bremen’s main station and walked towards the city centre. Kohli was immediately taken. “The closer we got to the centre, the more I loved the place,” he recalls. “It was a cold February evening, there was a light dusting of snow and everything was lit up – it was simply magical.”
The decision had been made. Zhu and Kohli initiated the necessary steps and founded New Idea Crafts GmbH in Bremen. Zhu continued to work from China, while Kohli moved to Bremen, from where he has been managing the European business ever since. The company sells bags, rucksacks, cooler bags, clothing, uniforms, jewellery, gifts and promotional items made in China. The rucksacks are manufactured according to the customers’ specifications, and the shopping bags are made of cotton. The sales markets vary by product. Cooler bags are big sellers in Italy and Spain, in particular, while the uniforms are aimed at the German market. And the tops and shorts made by the Sino-German business are popular with sports clubs and fitness centres in the UK.
The bags, rucksacks and clothing are manufactured at the company’s factory in Wenzhou, a city in Zhejiang province in east China. Around 80 employees work there. The goods arrive in Hamburg on a container ship from China and are then transported by road either to the warehouse or directly to the wholesalers. The warehouse is situated in Bremen’s Cargo Distribution Center (GVZ). Kohli puts some of the company’s success down to the locals he has met here: “We met the right people from the start, and, more importantly, the right type of people.” One of them is Elisabeth Breidbach, the project manager at Bremeninvest responsible for assisting tenants at the World Trade Center. The key task of the WTC is to support international businesses and ensure that their relocation to Bremen is as smooth as possible. Kohli is now also able to make new contacts at trade fairs such as Ambiente in Frankfurt, PSI in Düsseldorf and IAW in Cologne.
Initially, the company mainly sold to wholesalers in Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. “In 2016, we moved into a bigger office in the WTC and started selling to end customers,” Kohli says. Together with his employee, Padmaraj Pattanashetti, who studied at Bremen University of Applied Sciences, he tried to master this new challenge. “But we found that we couldn’t generate enough sales via our website and the usual sales channels,” Kohli adds. The small volume was simply insufficient, and they lacked personnel and expertise. After a year, the pair decided to switch back to their original model of only selling to wholesalers, and moved from their large office to the current one in 2017. There had been another problem that they had not considered beforehand: “Once we started selling to end customers, we were in competition with our own traders,” Kohli says. “We now leave the business with end customers to them.”
Kohli and Pattanashetti developed disposable plates and cutlery for their new BlumBio Solutions brand. The plates, bowls, knives, and forks are made of biodegradable corn starch. They developed the design and texture of the material themselves in Bremen, but the manufacturing facility is in China. Find out here, how they came up with the idea and what makes the product so unique.
Your contact persons for relocating to Bremen from China are Matthias Hempen, Project Manager China, firstname.lastname@example.org, +49 (0)421 9600-127, and Karin Noetzel, Projekct Manager International Investments, email@example.com, +49 (0)421 9600-122.
If you want to find out more about the World Trade Center Bremen, please contact Elisabeth Breidbach, firstname.lastname@example.org, +49 (0)421 9600-241.
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