Fast track to become an e-company

For an e-marketplace to succeed, it must achieve critical mass and achieve it fast. With the release of a new suite of solutions, Comex plans to do just that by luring SMEs online quickly and cheaply.

SINGAPORE - Comex, a Singapore based e-business solutions provider, has announced the launch of BecomeCo, a new suite of services aimed directly at the SME market.

To sweeten the offering for SMEs, the company has also brokered an agreement with the IDA (Infocomm Development Authority) to offer BecomeCo under one of the board's subsidy programs. That could discount the cost of going on-line by up to 50%.

Sitting in his office with ZDNetAsia two days before the official launch of BecomCo, Michael Yap, the CEO of Comex, was candid about the motives behind the new suite of solutions.

"If you have a marketplace, but nobody is buying or selling, then what's the point?" said Yap, "so in order to help the people who we've built marketplaces for, we've come out with a program that drives buyers and sellers to the marketplace, BecomeCo is that program."

Currently, Comex is in the process of building and has built about a dozen e-marketplaces.

However, having a marketplace is not enough. Industry experts have long emphasized the importance for a marketplace to achieve critical mass in as short a time as possible.

It's only when there is enough volume in trade that a market can survive, much less to thrive.

Comex plans to do this by making it as easy and as cheap as possible to get businesses to go on-line and to be plugged into a marketplace.

BecomeCo, the suite of solutions that is supposed to do that, is by no means a state-of-the-art fare capable of delivering to the user the magical wonder of the information superhighway.

Instead, it's a practical set of applications delivering comprehensive but basic functionalities to quickly initiate a company into the e-commerce arena.

The full suite of BecomeCo includes 5 basic modules. An e-business module to quickly connect a business with an e-marketplace, an e-office module providing basic office automation functionalities such as e-mail, messaging and file sharing, one e-company module supporting basic web-site management, and an e-store to run an on-line store-front.

A full suite with all 5 modules and extra pieces of hardware is estimated at about S$37 000 a year. After the 50% subsidy from IDA, the cost to a business signing up with this program is about $18 000 a year.

A chunk of the cost comes from the hardware that may be needed to set the business up electronically. Minus hardware and all other components, an e-seller program costs a business only about $1200 a year after subsidy.

More importantly, BeComesCo provides a quick affordable start to e-business SMEs.

Over the next 24 months, Comex plans to spend 7 million dollars and hopes to sign on 10 000 businesses to the plan.

The company figures this is what it will take to achieve critical mass for both the company and its e-marketplace. "If we achieve the target," noted Yap, "we've succeeded."

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