eGuide Singapore To Offer Local SME Marketplace

[Singapore] Web-based directory service provider eGuide Singapore has launched an electronic marketplace that will not only facilitate B2B and B2C e-commerce across borders, but will also provide a credit risk rating service to companies listed in the directory.

The eGuide Marketplace is intended to enhance the company’s current Internet directory service with B2B transaction facilities for its SME (Small & Medium-sized Enterprise) clients. It will enable traditional offline merchants to conduct e-commerce, trade exchanges and order management, participate in auctions, and perform other business processes online.

The e-marketplace is a collaboration between eGuide Singapore and BeXcom Southeast Asia, an e-commerce solutions provider, to develop an e-commerce platform suited for SMEs based on BeXcom’s Global Transaction Infrastructure (GTI). The GTI consists of an integrated suite of software solutions residing in major global trading zones: Southeast Asia, Greater China, Japan, North America and Europe. It links e-marketplaces into a global B2B e-commerce network.

According to Lee Suan Hiang, chief executive of Singapore’s Productivity and Standards Board (PSB), some 17,000 out of the targeted 32,000 SMEs are currently users of e-commerce solutions – a dramatic jump from the less than 1,000 a year ago. “PSB launched the SME 21 Plan a year ago. One of the goals is to get one out of every three SMEs to adopt e-commerce by 2003. A key strategy is for SMEs to jumpstart their online capabilities by using ready-made packages offered by e-commerce service providers. eGuide Marketplace is one such package,” he said.

Lee added that the high cost of investment in technology and reliability of conducting business over the Internet were issues that needed to be addressed, and that eGuide Marketplace will help address those issues that do concern SMEs.

It will cost an SME anywhere from S$10,000 to S$20,000 (US$5,700 to US$11,500) to take advantage of the infrastructure and services package that eGuide Marketplace will provide. The package includes the necessary products and services cataloging, and setup tools that will help the SMEs manage buyer and seller records, said Ricky Koh, Group chief executive officer of eGuide Singapore. SMEs will also incur a fee of S$2 (US$1.15) per document transmitted through the system once their online trade passes the stage where a purchase order has been issued.

In addition to the ability to transact within eGuide Marketplace, SMEs will also be able to obtain a credit risk assessment of companies participating in the e-marketplace. Business information services provider SingBizInfo, the operating arm of Infocredit International and Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) Singapore, will provide e-marketplace companies with a rating based on the D&B Credit Risk Index, a product which is worth about S$40 to S$70 (US$22.95 to US$40.16), according to David Emery, senior vice-president of D&B Asia Pacific, and D&B representative director in SingBizInfo.

“SMEs are often resistant to trading online because they are worried about fraud and security issues. The D&B Credit Risk Index helps merchants arrive at credit decisions with a higher level of certainty,” Emery said.

According to eGuide Singapore’s Koh, the cost of the credit risk assessment is bundled into the initial setup package cost, but it remains to be seen if the service will be chargeable in future. “These are details that need to be worked out subsequently based on the response [to this service],” he said.

Koh also revealed that five SMEs had already signed up prior to the eGuide Marketplace launch. He added that eGuide Singapore intends to sign up at least 3,000 e-marketplace clients over the next two years.

New eGuide Marketplace client Danny Lim of Dan Lim Religious Artifacts & Trading was present at the launch. His company, which manufactures Rosewood altars, among other religious

artifacts, has not undergone any computerization of its operations – a situation that many SMEs can identify with.

“The Singapore market is too small so we need to go global. But we are an SME and we don’t have a big budget; we have looked at other e-commerce offerings and they have been too expensive,” Lim said. “With help from PSB, which will provide 50 percent of the development costs, we feel we are able to go ahead with our e-commerce plans with eGuide Marketplace.”

The Jumpstart Program developed by PSB provides financial assistance to SMEs for consultancy, hardware and software acquisitions, first-year subscription fees to ASP services, systems familiarization, and certification for credit worthiness. Support is provided up to 50 percent of the development cost, or a maximum of S$20,000.

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