For Marius Ciavola, CEO, at Tradeling, building up the share of B2B ecommerce is all about taking small, yet decisive, steps to add depth to the market. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The Dubai Government backed B2B marketplace, Tradeling, is clear on what it wants to aim for.

“B2B transactions in the Gulf/Middle East online space make up only a fraction – say 1 per cent or even less than that – of a $1 trillion sized global market,” said Marius Ciavola, CEO at Tradeling, which is owned by DAFZA (Dubai Airport Free Zone Authority) and marked its second year of operations last week.

“Now, that’s quite an insignificant size given the kind of potential B2B online deals have in these markets. Our aim is to push that percentage to 4-5 per cent and make it into a $50 billion size.”

It’s a fact that B2B platforms have until now not found Middle East markets fertile enough for the kind of growth B2C portals are having. 2020 was the breakout year for shopper-focussed online portals, with the likes of noon and Amazon leading the charge as more consumers took to buying online after the pandemic showed up. Not just them, online grocery portals from the likes of talabat and elGrocer (now owned by Etisalat) felt the boost of widespread buyer support.

According to estimates, B2C online transactions now represent 8-10 per cent of the overall spending patterns.

Currently, consumer electronics, F&B-related orders, and office supplies are the heaviest traded on the Tradeling platform.

Get more suppliers on board

Tradeling launched at a time, mid-February 2020, when the first signs of COVID-19’s destructive – and disruptive – powers were just showing up. It meant a rough initiation, but in many ways, businesses being forced to shift online for their supplies did help the company carve up a space quickly enough.

Currently, consumer electronics, F&B-related orders, and office supplies are the heaviest traded on the Tradeling platform, which hosts multiple sellers from various geographies offering their merchandise.

“We will not get into B2C sales directly – that’s not on the agenda,” said Ciavola. “What we have done is make it easier for suppliers and buyers to access financing, which is why we tied up with Etihad Credit towards the end of last year.

“This way, we can ensure that suppliers get paid immediately on an order booked through the portal. This instant payment option removes a constant headache that suppliers had to face on their orders – the long lead time to getting paid.

“To ease the challenges on funds, there is also credit being extended to buyers, as part of the smoothening of making deals through Tradeling.”

New markets, new categories
In terms of new markets, Tradeling will expand its base to Egypt and Saudi Arabia shortly. When it comes to categories, the B2B portal plans to offer buying and selling options for automobile spare parts, pharmaceuticals and agri-products.
“These are all great opportunities to add to the gains we made with F&B, electronics and, of course, office supplies, which is what we started off with at the launch in February 2020,” said Marius Ciavola, CEO

Supply chain and delayed payments have been the two issues that have blighted movement of goods in the B2B space. Businesses that are feeling the pinch of reduced cashflow get their suppliers to bear the brunt of the delays on cash owed to them on orders. According to market sources, payment delays now regularly stretch to 180 days.

By paying suppliers upfront and making it easier for buyers on the portal to tap trade finance, Tradeling wants to reshape the B2B space in favour of online-based deals. (B2B online marketplaces also have seen Chinese heavyweights come into the picture, such as Alibaba.)

“The other area where we are helping out our sellers is through fulfilment centres, where they can stock in-demand merchandise for immediate shipment to buyers,” the CEO added. “Given the supply chain constraints that still exist, this option removes an element of uncertainty for sellers. It’s something we will keep building on.”