Tradenex.com Sdn Bhd chief technology officer Stanley Ng said the aim of the portal was to drive FMM members to create online communities by first conducting mundane transactions like sending circulars online instead of on paper, with one another before taking it into the next level, which is conducting business between suppliers and buyers in cyberspace.
To accomplish the second step, Ng said Tradenex was building a "XML hub" to facilitate quick exchanges of basic business documents, purchase orders, setting up price catalogues and even conducting collaborative planning and forecasting.
Extensible Markup Language (XML) enables the seamless exchange of data between different applications and operating systems.
"In fact, the portal's infrastructure (excluding the XML feature) took us about two months to build. We spent another six months to get the various SME associations and trade groups to learn how to do transact online," Ng said. The XML hub will be ready in a few months.
Citing government statistics, he added there were about 20,000 SMEs with an annual turnover of RM25 million (US$6.5 million) or less, of which only about 15 percent are engaging in e-business in any real sense.
"These are companies which are involved in mid-scale export activities where their trading partners require them to transact via the Net," Ng said.
The challenge for Tradenex, he added, is to get the remaining SMEs to understand and experience the new way of conducting business.
Tradenex is backed and endorsed by the Malaysian Plastics Manufacturers Association, Malaysian Iron and Steel Foundation and several others. Together, these associations have a total strength of 3,000 members and are listed as a community in the Tradenex portal.