This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily on June 25, 2018
KUALA LUMPUR: It has been more than a year since the Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ) initiative was launched in Malaysia and although public attention was only revived a week ago during the launch of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s first regional office here, several local companies have already been hard at work making the ambitious project a reality.
Big data analytics firm Fusionex International Plc is one of them, having led a consortium which secured a contract to provide the e-Services platform for the DFTZ from the Malaysia Digital Economy Corp.
The awarding of the contract was announced in November last year and according to Fusionex, has since been up and running with more than 3,000 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) on board currently.
“More and more of [these companies] are starting to appreciate that it is important to level up and capitalise on the robust growth in e-commerce and the export market,” said Datuk Seri Ivan Teh, founder and chief executive officer of Fusionex.
He added that many local SMEs that Fusionex has spoken to are receptive, open-minded and cognisant of the global language.
“They are open and want to embrace technology as long as it’s easier, faster, better, and more cost-effective than the status quo. In short, they are constructive but might be facing challenges in areas such as market access, funds, modern skills and technology. This is where DFTZ’s e-Services can assist them,” Teh told The Edge Financial Daily in an email exchange.
The platform is key to realising the e-World Trade Platform (eWTP) that has been one of Alibaba’s key initiatives under the DFTZ banner and aims to provide Malaysian SMEs access to global consumers via e-commerce.
“The e-Services platform functions as a one-stop digital trade facilitation platform, that is integrated with a multitude of business service platforms, e-marketplaces, government agencies, logistics providers, freight forwarders, agents, SMEs and other service providers,” said Teh.
The platform aims to “bridge the gap in terms of know-how, reduce costs, as well as avoid or minimise unnecessary delays and encumbrances associated with the old way of manually doing things,” he said, adding that it is meant to be highly scaleable and inclusive.
According to Teh, the platform is powered by big data technologies, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning and is “designed to help merchants — regardless of shape and size — to level the playing ground, and do so without incurring exorbitant costs”.
Fusionex is also riding on the strength of Alibaba Cloud, what with being the latter’s official strategic partner in this region.
“They are a great, committed partner,” Teh said of Alibaba Cloud, noting that the collaboration is synergistic as the latter “has a great cloud offering, whereas Fusionex is a leader in big data technology, AI and machine learning with a strong international reputation.”
While Fusionex may not be a household name to most Malaysians, it has certainly made waves overseas. The company had, until July last year, been listed on London’s Alternative Investment Market.
However, Teh had decided to take the company private after five years on the market due to what he reportedly said was a persistently undervalued stock.
Without disclosing any figures, Teh shares that Fusionex has “invested significantly” and will continue to invest as it is fully committed to ensuring the success of the e-Services platform.
He did not reveal the names of the group’s partners in its consortium, but that they are local players with the relevant expertise and experience.
Teh pointed out that like the DFTZ itself, the e-Services platform is not constrained to physical hubs such as the KL Aeropolis logistics hub being developed by Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd and Cainiao Smart Logistics Network (Hong Kong) Ltd.
“e-Services will be an open platform that welcomes multiple business service providers, be it forwarding agents, logistics players, and of course very importantly, good local SMEs with great Malaysian products.”
“The cost benefits and efficiencies these players enjoy would ultimately trickle down to consumers [in the form of] faster, more efficient and more cost-effective products and fulfilment,” he said.