New B2B project set for October launch

SouqAlKhaleej.net claims that true pan-Gulf reach and a greater number of services will differentiate it from previous B2B e-marketplaces in the region.

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By  David Ingham Published  June 11, 2002

Another e-marketplace will enter the region’s e-business fray in October, but one of the key men behind SouqAlKhaleej.net is insisting that this is not just another ‘me too’ initiative. Abdullah Samhan, CEO, claims that SouqAlKhaleej.net will be the first e-marketplace with true GCC reach, rather than a one country focus, and that it will it includes services that other e-marketplaces don’t offer.

The reason he’s able to make the first claim is the official endorsement of the Federation of GCC Chambers of Commerce, the umbrella organisation for the GCC’s 30 individual chambers of commerce. The Federation, established to promote cross border Gulf trade, will promote the marketplace to the 500,000 companies registered at the various chambers. “This is the first regional business to business project, and the first regional project under an official umbrella,” says Samhan.

Big name backing alone won’t guarantee SouqAlKhaleej.net’s success, however. Samhan claims that the marketplace will also include features and services missing from previous regional efforts. He is even reluctant to refer to his project as an e-marketplace, saying the site’s marketplace component, “is only 10% of the whole project.”

“Between looking for an opportunity and the product leaving the warehouse, there are lots of steps involved in doing a trade,” explains Samhan. “Previous [online B2B] efforts have not covered those steps and that is why there is not a lot of e-commerce going on. We’re providing the roads and highways for doing business online.”

Samhan focuses in particular on electronic document transfer and digital certificates. Samhan’s argument is that there can be dozens of documents involved in a commercial transaction, particularly when it is cross border, and current e-marketplaces don’t take this into account. SouqAlKhaleej.net will allow those documents to be transmitted electronically and in a secure manner, approved with a digital signature.

That assumes, however, that governments will issue key documents electronically and that banks will accept electronic documents signed with digital signatures. Samhan says that banks will almost certainly agree and whilst governments might be harder, “chambers are convinced, so it will be easier to convince governments.”

However, whilst it might be possible to put in place the infrastructure required to do business online, there’s no guarantee that the 500,000 companies under the Federation of GCC Chambers of Commerce want to trade online. What SouqAlKhaleej.net hopes is that the prospect of cross border GCC trade and the Federation’s endorsement will overcome the resistance of GCC companies. Samhan’s ambition is to eventually link SouqAlKhaleej.net into international e-marketplaces, opening up the whole world to those 500,000 companies.

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