Ride e-commerce wave, SMEs urged (The Straits Times)

A TOP executive at one of Asia’s biggest Internet firms has urged Singapore’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) to ride the e-commerce boom.

Mr Michael Mang, head of business development and marketing for Alibaba.com in the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and North Africa, said Singapore’s top-notch infrastructure gives it a vital edge.

And Singapore’s strong infrastructure has helped it develop into an information hub. “The Internet here is very fast, even faster than Japan’s,” Mr Mang said.

The Republic has a wide range of services available too. “We have so many banks here, so many logistics providers, so many data analytics and consultation companies,” he said.

Mr Mang was speaking to The Straits Times on the sidelines of the Alibaba Business Circle at Suntec convention centre yesterday.

The event, which aims to leverage Alibaba.com’s expertise to help small businesses thrive globally, was attended by representatives from SMEs from various industries.

Speakers addressed a range of issues related to e-commerce and international trade.

Alibaba.com, a China-based e-commerce giant, yesterday launched a new service called Trade Assurance. It analyses a supplier’s past performance and trading history and helps global buyers ensure product quality and punctual delivery.

It was designed by Alibaba.com to ease concerns over reliability for businesses that trade with Chinese suppliers.

So far, the Trade Assurance scheme involves only participating suppliers from China but there are plans to roll out the service to global suppliers over the next few years.

“The programme has just been launched today, so we need time to monitor how well businesses do with Trade Assurance protection,” said Mr Mang.

On Tuesday, Alibaba.com appointed SingPost as the first logistics partner for the Alibaba Merchant Delivery scheme, which provides members with logistics solutions and consultation services in cooperation with its logistics partners in South-east Asia.

Alibaba Group and SingPost signed a memorandum of understanding in May last year.

Mr Mang said Alibaba is looking to use Singapore as a platform to reach out to the South-east Asian region. While it has a presence in Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, Singapore is a strategic location.

He said: “I think infrastructure-wise and culture-wise, Singaporean businesses definitely have the advantage to deal with the international standard.”