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-------------------------------------------------------------- This story was printed from ZDNetAsia, located at http://www.zdnetasia.com/news/dailynews/story/0,2000010021,20064804,00.htm. --------------------------------------------------------------
MyTrade.Net banks on fee-based model for B2B

August 24, 2000
URL: http://www.zdnetasia.com/news/dailynews/story/0,2000010021,20064804,00.htm

Malaysian e-marketplace claims to have signed on 7,500 companies for its subscription-based service barely three weeks since it opened for business.

KUALA LUMPUR - A local B2B portal MyTrade.Net is banking on its belief that Malaysian companies are likelier to value e-commerce only when they have to pay for it.

"Nothing is free, everything has its price. And eyeball impressions will get you nowhere. The draw is money. If people know there is money to be made online, they will jump in," said Alvin Foo, chief executive of portal operator Via Communication Network Sdn Bhd (VCN).

VCN claims to have signed on 7,500 companies for its subscription-based service barely three weeks since it opened for business. The portal charges an annual RM199 (US$52) listing fee and a monthly RM50 (US$13) to post offers and request for proposals (RFPs).

Aimed at small and medium enterprises (SMEs), the online buyer-seller matchmaking service runs two bulletin boards - one for offers, the other for proposals - and a business match engine that interlinks the two and informs successful parties of their bid.

Current trades range from a RM20 offer to deliver a curry fish head dish in Johor Baru to RM50,000 (US$13 000) RFP for a 1,500 sq ft office space in Penang.

VCN itself has posted a RFP worth RM500,000 (US$130 000) for an advertising campaign for its products.

"The e-marketplace will save companies valuable time in finding buyers and sellers of products and services nationwide," said Foo.

He added it will also ease the burden of companies requesting and sifting through quotes by traditional means to identify a variety of corporate needs from the purchase of computers to professional services.

VCN has ambitious plans to capture 90 percent of the SMEs in Malaysia and hopes to sign on an average of 50 new customers a day. To pull that off, Foo said the company has almost doubled its sales force from 250 to 450 personnel.

Foo, who parlayed Malaysia's first commercial Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) service into a successful business in the last two years, is confident of reaching the target by leveraging on VCN's market credibility and existing 15,000-strong clientele base.

Foo said delivering the sales pitch via the "personal touch" and traditional door-to-door method is crucial in signing up customers in Malaysia - especially since online credit-card purchase is still not pervasive.

"There is a lack of awareness on B2B e-commerce and too few people who actually understand the real value of the Net to them personally. Most business people are still skeptical about online trade. Our strategy is backed by a true human interface. We're putting a person in front of them to show them the value of getting online," he said.

He adds that MyTrade.Net has no plans in the near-term to take cuts from successful bids and operate as brokerage as the work involved is "far too tedious and time-consuming."

VCN has already invested RM3 million (US$789,000) to set up the portal and will spend an additional RM3.5 million (US$921,000) over the next six months to promote it in local major media and list the value of total contracts.

Plans are also underway to introduce the portal to Thailand and Singapore through partners.

"We are currently developing the Thai and Mandarin language versions of the English-based portal using open source technology, " he said, adding that the engine and applications for the portal were entirely developed in-house.