“Collaboration produces added value for us”

Finnish clothing brand Makia manufactures coats in China with help from Nikolai Sourcing. We asked Manna&co’s Logistics, Sourcing & Masterdata Director Mika Martikainen to tell us about how they’ve benefitted from our collaboration.

TO PUT IT CONCISELY, Nikolai Sourcing is our representative in China. In practice, Nikolai Sourcing’s local experts act as intermediaries between us and the factory. They handle contact and translations, forward purchasing orders, schedules, samples and sample comments, for example. In addition, Nikolai Sourcing’s experts search for new material suppliers and new materials from existing suppliers for us.

NIKOLAI SOURCING is familiar with the markets and the textiles and clothing product group in China, which provides added value for us. Nikolai offers us a channel to the service providers that we’re looking for in China.

It’s important to us that Nikolai Sourcing is a Finnish company.”

IT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT that the agent understands the culture, manners, language, and regulatory requirements of the country and market in question. In Chinese procurements, language plays a particularly important role. We have a named contact person at Nikolai Sourcing’s Beijing office that we deal with directly. Our contact person and other experts at Nikolai Sourcing play a key role in translating instructions so that they are suitable and understandable for local factories.

WE HAVE collaborated with Nikolai Sourcing for around ten years, so we’ve fine-tuned our processes and communication is easy. When Makia first went to China, we had enormous difficulties with production arrangements and quality in China. At that time, Nikolai Sourcing played a crucial role in finding suitable factories for us.

NOWADAYS WE MAINLY work with one coat factory that has a good understanding of our needs, quality, and price points. Responsibility plays an important role at Makia and Manna, which Makia joined in 2021. We have joined the amfori BSCI system, which means that the factory Nikolai uses for our coat production is audited by amfori.

IN THEORY, BECAUSE we have collaborated for a long time with just one factory, we could just communicate directly with the factory, but I suspect that we would miss out on a significant amount of contact, and we would lose external verification of the product quality and processes. If we didn’t have Nikolai Sourcing between us and the factory, we would be chained to just one factory and its terms, and we wouldn’t be able to intervene and control things as we can now.

IT’S IMPORTANT TO US that Nikolai Sourcing is a Finnish company. If we come up with a new idea, we can first spar with the Finland office to quickly come up with preliminary schedules and prices.”

“Like our very own office in Asia”

Kokkola-based Halpa-Halli Oy has been a customer of ours for a long time. We asked procurement manager Janne Toivonen to tell us what he appreciates about our collaboration.

“OUR COLLABORATION WITH NIKOLAI Sourcing began when we wanted to strengthen our imports from China. We were looking for a partner of a suitable size with an established network for our Asia procurements. We wanted to create a package that we could use to ensure the quality and responsibility of our brands and our imports.

IN PRACTICE, NIKOLAI Sourcing is our eyes and ears in Asia. We have outsourced our Asia operations to them so that there is high transparency to factories and suppliers. With Nikolai, we’re able to visit factories, negotiate in person, and manage quality and delivery times.

I would describe Nikolai Sourcing in three words: reliable, flexible and fast.”

THE CULTURAL DIFFERENCES between Asia and Finland were reduced greatly by the fact that Nikolai Sourcing’s head office is in Finland and that the company has plenty of experience and understanding of Asia as an operating environment. We have designated people at Nikolai Sourcing’s Asia office that we communicate with about specified categories. In Asia, it’s rare to say directly if something isn’t possible, but Nikolai Sourcing’s local experts understand and know how to ask questions that get the right answers.

DURING THE PANDEMIC, and otherwise, Nikolai Sourcing has found flexible solutions to every challenge. They have been of great help in seeing things through to completion, even during exceptional circumstances – we haven’t had a single problem with goods deliveries throughout the entire pandemic. For us it’s good that our partner has an established network that we can make use of in India as well as in China.

I would describe Nikolai Sourcing in three words: reliable, flexible and fast. We have formed a long partnership with Nikolai Sourcing. To us, our collaboration feels like we have our very own office in Asia.”