1 March 2001
Building On An Early Lead(HKTDC Jewellery, Vol 01,2001)
Vol. 1 2001
HONG KONG ENTERPRISE INTERNET
E-COMMERCE may be making all the headlines these days, but five years ago when the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC) launched its Hong Kong Enterprise Internet (HKEI) Web site, most Hong Kong businesses were not even aware of the online revolution.
"With the Internet platform, it was a natural progression to have an Internet version for advertisers with Hong Kong Enterprise magazine - which is a must-read on the desks of buyers - to advertise their products," says C.S. Lee, TDC's director of exhibitions and publications, who headed the HKEI start-up team.
"The overall objective of the TDC is to help Hong Kong companies to sell their products. The Internet is a trendy and effective platform, and Enterprise Internet is a way to help Hong Kong companies. The TDC should be taking a lead in this area."
According to TDC figures for August 2000, HKEI registers about 4.9 million hits per month. Most of those visitors to the Web site come from North America (48%), followed by Hong Kong (24%) and Europe (13%). Of those visitors, 43% are importers, 19% manufacturers and 16% are wholesalers/retailers.
TDC has been monitoring the way in which Hong Kong companies perceive the Internet as a promotional platform, and Lee has seen an increase in the numbers using the medium. As of September 2000, about 12,000 Hong Kong companies are listed with HKEI, realizing that, as one advertiser puts it, "being part of the Internet is now a worldwide requirement".
But that has not always been the case. When HKEI went online in January 1996, the advertiser-based Web site faced an uphill battle, admits Lee. The word e-commerce was not yet a buzzword, and the TDC found itself not only having to educate potential advertisers about the new service, but about the Internet and online business, he recalls.
"It was a long process, but the past year has seen an Internet explosion in Hong Kong, which has helped us enormously. We don't need to do as much briefing on the Internet and Web sites and what they are," says Lee.
HKEI is only one of the features of the TDC's trade portal on the Internet, www.tdctrade.com, a cyber gateway targeted at anyone doing trade in Hong Kong, the Chinese mainland and the region. Launched in February 2000, the portal is especially useful for small and medium-sized enterprises, giving them market information, contacts and easy access to e-commerce facilities.
According to advertisers, HKEI is living up to its promise and bringing a rise in the number of enquiries and orders. Sporting-goods maker Goldgem Dragon Ltd reports an 8% increase in business after advertising with HKEI - with most of those clients coming from Europe and the US.
The HKEI Web site, says managing director David Chu, is an easy way for Goldgem to introduce its brand name and promote its products directly and efficiently.
"In this new century, most of the telecommunications and international businesses are using the Internet to conduct business, so we choose to advertise with HKEI more than magazines or newspapers," he says.
Hankey Asia Ltd, a soap manufacturer which has been an HKEI advertiser since day one, estimates that 60-70% of enquiries directed to the company are generated through either HKEI or TDC magazines.
"We had very good expectations that the TDC would provide a good service," says Hankey's general manager Anthony Chan. "The TDC is very important to all Hong Kong traders and manufacturers, and our experience has been very positive."
Advertising with HKEI has given the firm another unexpected bonus: Chan estimates that communicating with clients via the Internet has saved the firm up to HK$10,000 (US$1,282) a month on postage and international telephone charges.
"In busy months we used to spend HK$8,000 to HK$10,000 (US$1,026-1,282) on communication costs. Now it's less than HK$1,000 (US$128) per month. And the efficiency is higher - you can transmit colourful pictures of your products to your clients instantly," says Chan.
Rebecca Tsang, owner of fashion jewellery manufacturer World-Link Enterprises, says she chose to sign up with HKEI rather than other online services because most buyers looking for information about Hong Kong companies turned first to the TDC for contacts.
"TDC is one of the leading sources for overseas customers. That's the first organization they think about when they look for information about Hong Kong," Tsang says.
With an estimated 295 million Net users worldwide and Net consultants predicting a boom in e-commerce within three years, an e-business strategy is de rigueur for serious competitors in today's marketplace.
The revenue forecasts from Net watchers vary drastically, ranging from billions to trillions of US dollars. Consulting and accounting firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu predicts
e-commerce in Asia is likely to be worth between US$250bn and US$300bn by 2003, from just US$6bn to US$8bn in 1999.
Research firm Forrester is even more bullish, with forecasts that the growth in Asia-Pacific e-commerce will result in revenues worth US$1.6 trillion by 2004. It says that global online spending will reach US$6.9 trillion in 2004 - with 20% of total sales coming from the Asia-Pacific region. Meanwhile, independent consultant Keenan Vision Inc estimates that, in the US, the Internet economy will account for 22.7% of GDP by 2004, compared to 0.9% in 1999, with business-to-business (B2B) transactions making up 78% of that figure.
As Deloitte's head of e-commerce consulting in Asia, Peter Williams, told a meeting of the World Economic Forum in September 2000, Asian suppliers who were not positioning themselves for the Internet "are going to be out of business" within a few years. He said that by 2003, 90% of all Internet commerce would be in B2B transactions, much of it between Asian suppliers and their big-brand customers in the West.
It is a forecast the TDC's C.S. Lee takes seriously. "Everyone has access to the Internet and in the future we see a lot of potential for Enterprise Internet to become a marketplace for Hong Kong companies and international buyers to meet," he says.
"We keep a watch on the market and manufacturers, but we have our own mandate and niche to provide information about Hong Kong companies to anyone wanting to find out about manufacturers. TDC is a worldwide brand name, and we provide access to that type of information via our portal tdctrade.com and Enterprise Internet."
Five years ago, the TDC saw the future and led the Internet charge for Hong Kong. This pioneer is not resting on its laurels, and is ready to head to the next frontier to stake a claim on behalf of Hong Kong manufacturers and traders.
WRITTEN BY HELEN WONG
- C.S. Lee,
director of exhibitions
HONG Kong Enterprise Internet (HKEI), at www.hkenterprise.com, is a catalogue of the products and services of Hong Kong firms, offering buyers a fast and effective way to source products direct from the manufacturer. It provides advertisers, who are listed under 72 product categories and 16 services categories, a fast and cost-effective way to promote themselves to a targeted audience.
Here is how it works. A buyer looking for someone to produce a new line of toys, for example, goes to the HKEI home page and looks for "Toys & Games" under the product category, which provides a full list of toy manufacturers and links to their contact details.
If the buyer is looking for a specific company, one can access company information by typing in either the name of the product, the company name or the brand name. The result brings up a company home page, profiling an individual manufacturer. This page contains a company's basic information and contact details.
The HKEI home page highlights new products on the market under the What's New section. The Small Quantity Catalog caters for buyers with small orders or stores and mail-order customers looking to replenish stock. The Ready Inventory feature is where companies with excess and ready stock can post their goods - a service that is especially popular among buyers who are accustomed to keeping smaller stocks.
WRITTEN BY HELEN WONG
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