The COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses to re-evaluate their strategies and business models to cope with a swiftly changing environment.
This is particularly true for exporters, which play an integral part in today’s globalised, interconnected supply chains. But as COVID-19 ravaged supply chains, businesses scrambled to find alternative suppliers to quickly get their production online again.
Just a few years ago, finding information about suppliers was difficult. Purchasers had to either consult specialised trade publications or rely on word of mouth. Even then, information like availability, pricing, and logistics was hard to obtain.
Now, with platforms like Alibaba.com, businesses can easily overcome these pain points. As purchasers become younger and more tech savvy, their first port of call to source for suppliers is on the Internet. In that spirit, Alibaba.com held an online summit for SMEs to learn how they can tap the global market to accelerate their recovery during the crucial post-pandemic phase.
Assistance and Opportunities with MATRADE
The summit kicked off with the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) outlining the cross-border trade opportunities available for Malaysian businesses, as well as assistance for SMEs. Noraslan Hadi Abdul Kadir, Director of Transformation & Digital Trade Division at MATRADE said that MATRADE has not stopped operations, even during the movement control order (MCO) period.
“During that period, we organised virtual B2B meetings between Malaysian exporters and foreign buyers. We also disseminated trade leads to Malaysian exporters, which is information provided by our global trade offices, which we sent to companies registered with MATRADE,” said Hadi. Aside from information, MATRADE also processed RM7.33 million worth of export-related grants, as well as establishing a one-off fund for eTRADE eMarketplaces to support digital marketing.
Seizing Global Opportunities with Digitised Trade
Stephen Kuo, Head of Asia Pacific of Alibaba.com, then shared more on the global e-commerce market and Malaysia’s place within it, along with actionable insights on buyer behaviours, trends and how the Alibaba.com platform can help SMEs here to connect with the global market.
With Alibaba.com’s B2B online trade platform, exporters and buyers can connect quickly and efficiently. With over 40 product categories and millions of purchasers from over 200 countries and regions, Alibaba.com is a one-stop centre for SMEs to begin their global journey. Challenges like quality, pricing, and finding qualified suppliers are greatly mitigated by the platform’s marketing and insights features.
Kuo said, “I learned that many large suppliers rely on traditional methods to find customers, such as personal relationships and word of mouth. Now, more and more companies realise that the traditional approach is more costly and less effective than digital. They believe that Alibaba.com is safe and can bring success for their business.”
During the summit, Alibaba.com also launched two new solutions for Malaysian SMEs, on top of existing tools including automatic translations and performance analytics.
The Smart Marketing Solution aims to help businesses price their product more effectively, using a mix of AI algorithm and intelligent bidding based on Alibaba.com’s platform insights. The intelligence surfaced by the solution means SMEs can better understand how to position and price products, and adjust customer-acquisition strategies in a cost-effective way through automation.
“Malaysia has the potential to recover quickly, with a competitive business landscape, skilled workforce and established infrastructure for cross-border trade. E-commerce lowers the barriers to doing international business, and there is no better time to go global and go digital. With our platform and support structure in place, we hope to help SMEs here to propel their recovery into true growth, powered by opportunities from both the domestic and global markets,” said Kuo.
Real Businesses, Real Successes
To better contextualize how Alibaba.com can help businesses secure cross-border opportunities, the summit closed with a spotlight on two Malaysians SMEs and their experiences in using the platform to access the global marketplace.
TRL South East Asia Sdn Bhd, a local exporter of fresh and frozen tropical fruit produce, has 70 percent of new customers captured from Alibaba.com, due to the benefits from having ready and easy access to thousands of buyers worldwide.
“The key attraction offered by Alibaba.com is the one-stop solution for the seller. The three main things are trade assurance, instant freight quote, and competitive exchange rate,” explains Adrian Yoong, Sales and Marketing Director of TRL South East Asia Sdn Bhd.
Another business, Megix Industries Sdn Bhd, has also found success in exporting to 13 countries through Alibaba.com. Megix, a manufacturer of paper receipt rolls and computer forms, started its export journey in 2017 as a seller on Alibaba.com after having experienced the platform as a buyer themselves.
Through the platform, Megix has exported to more than 13 countries, including the Americas, Africa, and the Middle East. “During the MCO period, many businesses are affected. Many buyers and sellers will not be attending trade conferences or expos. It’s the new normal that we have to face. Through Alibaba.com, we are able to showcase our products online, and our exports during this period have certainly helped our cashflow position,” explained Francis Ng, managing director and co-founder of Megix. He also noted that exports on Alibaba.com now accounts for almost 85 percent of business today, and encouraged SMEs with limited manpower and financial resources to explore exporting globally via the platform.
New Normal, New Opportunities
As the COVID-19 wave subsides, business is picking up again. Both purchasers and exporters have to move fast to grab this opportunity and recover lost ground. With global travel and face-to-face meetings all but impossible, online B2B platforms have become the new cost-effective platform through which business can be conducted smoothly and efficiently.
As one of the largest B2B online platforms in the world, Alibaba.com is uniquely positioned to help Malaysian SMEs go global and expand their horizons. With the surge in interest for online trade as traditional ways of doing business are disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Alibaba.com recorded an 86 percent year-on-year growth in transaction volume on its platform in April 2020.
Through assistance from MATRADE and Alibaba.com, SMEs can take advantage of digitised trade and better connect to global purchasers.