What are the documents required to start your Export business?

India Export Volume

Documentation is a necessary part of export. This includes applying, submitting, obtaining, and producing the required documents or paperwork for exporting your goods to the foreign market. The government of India has recently made ‘Ease of business’ a streamlined process to reduce the number of documents required for export-import. 

With this in mind, here are standard documents required for export that one should know about when entering the global market.

Government certificates and documents

Company registration

When starting an export-import business, one must register it. Company registration involves selecting a business name and logo to represent it in the marketplace. One can register their business under different categories, some of which are sole proprietorship, LLP, Private Limited, Public Limited, and Partnership firm.

IEC License

An IEC (Import Export Code) Licence is one of the main prerequisites for anyone looking to start an import-export business globally. It is a 10-digit code issued by DGFT (Directorate General of Foreign Trade) and has a lifetime validity.

RCMC Certificate

The RCMC certificate validates that the exporter has registered with the Export Promotion Council (EPC). RCMC authorizes the import and export of restricted items, the export of more than two products under the same category, customs department benefits, and more. RCMC is also issued by DGFT authorities like EPC, commodity boards, and export development authorities.

FSSAI License (Optional)

FSSAI License allows the export of food and consumable products. This License is issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and sets standard guidelines for the quality of food and consumable products. One can apply for the FSSAI license on the official website of FoSCoS (Food Safety and Compliance Systems) and fill in the required details.

Bank documents

Bank Account Number

It is a primary identifier for the bank and how the bank account is saved on the bank’s database. It is a unique number that consists of 11-16 digits, depending on the type of bank. To start an export business, one must create a bank account in either a public or private bank, depending on their complexity and the risk with the bank’s terms.

AD Code

An Authorized Dealer (AD) code is a 14-digit unique code issued by the bank that holds your current account. It ensures that the exporter’s account is authorized for legal transactions.

Shipment Wise Documents

Bill of Lading (BL)

The Bill of Lading is the most important document and one of the first export documents required to export products from India. It is a legal document between shipper and carrier that specifies the type, quantity, and destination of the goods. The Bill of Lading also acts as a shipment receipt when the carrier delivers the goods to the destination. An authorized carrier, shipper, and receiver must sign it to ensure smooth import-export of product.

Proforma Invoice

Every export business starts with an inquiry about the product. This inquiry includes a request for a quotation or cost of your product. For a domestic prospect, the business typically uses the standard quotation. However, your quote should be provided as a proforma invoice for international prospects.

A proforma invoice is an invoice that is issued when the seller has had a preliminary discussion with the buyer but cannot send an official invoice as the final details of the deal still need to be confirmed from the buyer’s side. This gives a detailed understanding of the following:

  • Buyer-seller transaction
  • Detailed product description
  • System classification of product
  • Cost of product
  • Payment terms of the deal in 11 current incoterms
  • Delivery details
  • Currency used in the deal

A proforma invoice provides international buyers with the necessary details to go ahead with the deal.

Export/Purchase order

This document comes after the proforma invoice is issued. The order or shipment is confirmed with the Purchase order (PO), the export order. The document has the details filled in by the buyers, including cost, shipping details (mode of shipping), type of currency, inco terms and any other information or specifications required.

Commercial Invoice

Once you have issued a proforma invoice and received the order confirmation, you need to prepare your product for shipping, including the documents that must accompany it, one of which is a commercial invoice.

A commercial invoice includes end-to-end details of the entire import-export transaction. It is quite similar to the proforma invoice you sent, with additional details like the Product specifications, product model number,  order number, purchase order number, customer reference number, and banking and payment information.

Include relevant insurance information or other details to ensure prompt delivery and payment from your customers.

Packing List

The packing list states the items in the shipment and includes the net and gross weight of the packages in both imperial and metric measurements. It is being used in the following:

  • To create bills of Lading for the shipment
  • To get paid under a letter of credit by the bank
  • To identify the location of certain packed items if examination is required

If the cargo is lost or damaged, a packing list is also required to file an insurance claim.

Fumigation & Phyto-Sanitary certificates

A Fumigation Certificate is an official document which validates that all goods getting shipped are chemically disinfected, whereas a phytosanitary certificate ensures that the agricultural products to be shipped are pest and disease-free 

These certificates are essential to ensure the quality of goods under international parameters. They are mandatory documents for several countries if you want to export your goods there. A phytosanitary certificate is necessary for anyone planning to ship agricultural goods from India.

ECI Insurance

Export Credit Insurance (ECI) protects exporters by reducing the payment risk associated with foreign buyers. ECI covers commercial risks like buyer insolvency and bankruptcy and political risks like war, riots, and terrorism. ECI is being offered on either a single-buyer or multi-buyer basis for short—and medium-term repayment methods.

Customs document

Shipping/ Bill of export

ICEGATE, an Indian customs electronic gateway, issues the shipping bill. ICEGATE procures and files bills electronically, which clears exports from customs.

Certificate of origin

The certificate of order is like the birth certificate for your products. It contains the country of origin of goods, manufacturing details, and other specific details of the product. Make sure to produce a certificate of origin for each item in your shipment and attach it to the commercial invoice you share with the buyer.


A Bank Realisation Certificate (BRC) proves that the exporter has received the payment for the product exported. BRC usually contains the exporter’s name, bank details, invoice details, buyer details, and exchange amount in Indian rupees.

Letter of credit

The buyer’s bank generates and issues the letter of credit to commit the exporter’s payment date. This document is necessary to ensure the seller receives payment for their products.

Bank Draft

A bank draft is a document that the seller’s bank sends to the buyer’s bank to authorize the payment for the goods. The buyer’s bank releases the documents to the buyer and transfers the funds into the seller’s bank. The bank draft may include details of the bank transaction, type of bank, and additional documents required for payment.

Quality check documents

Before a product is shipped, an inspection is requested by the importer on the quality of goods to ensure that the quality, quantity and packaging parameters adhere to the trade regulations and matches the agreed terms.

Other additional documents required for export include:

  1. Marine insurance policy
  2. Mate’s Receipt
  3. FEMA Declaration
  4. Let export order
  5. Export general manifest
  6. Drug Controller license for pharma products

Final Thoughts:

Now that you understand the documents required for export, you can start procuring and generating them simultaneously. Ensure that you have thoroughly checked all information, that it is accurate, and that it complies with the rest of your product.

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