All around us, technologies connecting people, data and devices are disrupting not only the way we live but also how businesses are run. From wet-market seafood stalls to newspapers, traditional trades are being redefined in this digital age. As are their employees and bosses.
MoneyMax's Dr Peter Lim is one of those chief executives who slip into the digitalisation groove comfortably. Perhaps it's his entrepreneurial daring, a streak he has shared with two of his siblings since young. In 2015, supported by SPRING Singapore's Capability Development Grant, Dr Lim developed business-to-consumer web and mobile applications for MoneyMax customers. Pawning, selling and trading in second-hand luxury handbags meant that he soon became familiar with pre-owned branded bags – the main stars of SG e-Auction, his latest business.
A joint venture between MoneyMax and Tokyo-listed Aucnet, SG e-Auction will be Singapore's first live business-to-business online auction platform when it is launched early 2018. Aucnet has been enabling auction services for more than three decades and its luxury-brand B2B auction is Japan's largest, with each item being sold in just three seconds.
As with Aucnet's Japanese e-auctions, SG e-Auction will be a marketplace for only licensed or registered businesses. They must also sign up as members, says Dr Lim. "We must protect the interests of the B2B community."
SG e-Auction will be an exact replica of what Aucnet offers back home, complete with technology and know-how — save for localisation tweaks to enhance the user experience.
He outlines SG e-Auction's allure: "As a seller, my aim is to sell. Doesn't matter to which country, as long as it's sold, and sold at the best price. You don't need to go to Japan to buy — just go through us, and get the price and the quality you want. Imagine how much you'll save on cost and time."
If all goes well, SG e-Auction could bring vibrancy not just to Singapore's market, but also that of the wider Asean region.
MoneyMax's Dr Peter Lim answers five questions about his latest wholesale digitalisation undertaking:
#1 Why should an already successful wholesale business expand overseas?
"The problem is the small market here. However, our Singapore brand is trusted globally — it represents quality.
A good brand in Singapore that is doing very well should not be restricted locally. We should go beyond our shores."
#2 How important is money in a partnership?
"Money is not all that matters. People may say that financial resources are very important when looking at investing overseas. But it's not the most important consideration.
Partnership is about identifying complementary strengths. You have the technology, I have the market, let's cooperate. I told Aucnet: 'Together, we will open up your business to Singapore and Southeast Asia.'"
#3 How important is it to remain focused, when there are so many things to take care of?
"When we do things, we must be focused. People always say, go to this place, that place, or China to do business. A lot of companies only see far, and miss the market in front of us. We forget that we have a stronghold in Southeast Asia.
Our Japanese partner also believes in being focused They don't dabble in anything unfamiliar. Cars, motorbikes, luxury goods and medical equipment — yes. They won't sell candy as it's not their specialty. This is what I appreciate about them. You are the buyer so you know the product. I am the platform operator — I also know the product."
#4 What if employees are apprehensive?
"My employees are excited. Initially, they could see the idea but had doubts. But now, there's a teacher (Aucnet), so success is guaranteed.
We have chosen our best people to take part in the training programme. They will be equipped with holistic knowledge, from managing a traditional distribution channel to a new online platform. AucNet has also agreed to send a team over to facilitate the knowledge transfer. The collaboration will offer an exchange of minds and talents."
#5 It's easy to be overwhelmed when thinking about going overseas. Who can help?
"IE guided us and gave valuable advice, especially in partnership meetings. They gave us funding support as well. With IE's help, our globalisation path was shortened, with fewer obstacles and mistakes.
In Japan, the IE officer accompanied us to business meetings as a translator, because language posed a problem. Whatever you need, be it translation or materials/information, IE will gladly help. Some are only preoccupied with how much money IE provides. But why talk about funding when you've only just started looking at overseas expansion?
Along the company development process, IE will take on other roles, like negotiations and providing clarifications on taxes. Bottom line: If you don't approach IE and SPRING, you'll be wasting Singapore's resources."