Tejari.com takes momentum pan-Gulf

Over the course of the past year, Tejari.com was unveiled, went live, assumed the role of de-facto government procurement portal and attracted 60 suppliers — including some of Dubai’s largest business families — and catalogued something in the region of 60,000 items.

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By  Greg Wilson Published  March 29, 2001

Tejari.com|~||~||~|Over the course of the past year, Tejari.com was unveiled, went live, assumed the role of de-facto government procurement portal and attracted 60 suppliers — including some of Dubai’s largest business families — and catalogued something in the region of 60,000 items.

Tejari’s hectic initial year of operation has put e-procurement on the map and helped the online exchange to grab mind share and momentum amongst the Emirates’ business community. Now comes the hard part; building a trading business community across the Gulf, which will position the exchange as the undisputed trading exchange for the whole region.

Tejari.com aims to create nothing less than, “a market that can drive the Middle East… that will be able to knock on doors in the USA [and Europe.] There are [companies] from [other] markets out there that are interested in what’s happening in here. If there is somebody to connect them to that then there is [great] value,” predicts Lubna Al Qasimi, managing director of Tejari.com.

But Tejari’s bid to assume the role of leading horizontal exchange will face stiff competition. Commerce One Middle East has been working to form eight regional consortia scattered throughout the Gulf. Each consortium will consist of leading trading families from that each country. However, after a little under a year since arriving in the region, C1 has only announced one such consortium in Kuwait. “It’s taken a little longer than we would have liked,” said Helen Ritchie, partner marketing manager EMEA with Commerce One, last month in an interview with ACN. “But we’re almost there,” she added.

When C1 finally gets its e-marketplaces off the ground, the idea will be to connect all of them together, making use of the Global Trading Web (GTW), a set of XML schemas that enables the exchange of catalogue information between different Commerce One marketsite subscribers wherever they are in the world. “When we have the exchanges operational, we’re going to be exchange information between the different consortiums, enabling pan-Gulf trade,” explained Ritchie.

However, Al Qasimi questions whether there is going to be sufficient critical mass in terms of online traders, and products to support multiple exchanges. One cohesive exchange, with catalogues organised on the UN SPSC code and one URL will offer a better trading proposition to the global trading community.

“As a region we are small and can’t support many [online] markets,” says Al Qasimi. “If I go out there and say I’m going to create seven markets, then it’s a case of seven markets for who? I will have a small community for each and none of these are really collaborating.”

Although Tejari has generated momentum within Dubai, the exchange has yet to create an impact on a regional level. But Tejari is making moves to rectify the situation, with a concerted campaign to recruit partners across the region to drive the Tejari concept forward. “These [partners] would be the entities with the market knowledge and will bring that value onboard. They will do a much better job than I could, if I jumped in there myself,” explains Al Qasimi. “We won’t sell it as reseller type of thing… we’re not selling software — we’re selling a business service.” And that will require localised market knowledge, Al Qasimi argues.

Tejari.com’s initial success has evolved from its ability to mobilise the larger businesses towards the exchange. In turn, many of those businesses have been attracted to the exchange because of the presence of large government organisations. For Tejari.com to replicate its success pan-Gulf, it needs to attract other government organisations outside Dubai — which account for a large part of the spending power in many Gulf countries — to sign up for the exchange. “At the end of the day, [there’s] a value in creating efficiency and cost reduction for government departments, and they want that,” says Al Qasimi.

“The question is whether I can invest $5 million to create a marketplace, an infrastructure and host this business. Or should I look at a marketplace that is already operational and just put myself on it,” she adds.

If the existing infrastructure surrounding Tejari.com wasn’t enough to attract buyers and sellers from the other Gulf States, Al Qasimi is working on bringing two crucial elements to the exchange — logistics and financial settlement.

The Dubai-based exchange is currently working with Oracle to integrate the vendor’s payment mechanism and additional third party payment gateways, probably to be delivered by one or more of the local banks. Emirates Bank International (EBI) is joining the exchange, but at the time of going to press, it was unclear exactly what services it will bring to the exchange.

Tejari.com is also currently in talks to bring members of the logistics community to the exchange. “Logistics and financial services are two areas that we’re working on,” says Al Qasimi. As Tejari.com looks to attract greater numbers of pan-Gulf organisations to its platform, the startup exchange is also negotiating with auditing companies like SGS to handle the profiling of foreign organisations as they join the exchange.
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