After some small hiccups caused by a blundered outsourcing arrangement, Adelaide-based eSquare has launched its IT B2B exchange and is engaging with several prominent channel partners to enhance the value of its services.
Following a soft launch in Adelaide late last year, the RFQ (request for quote) system has been launched in Sydney and Melbourne.eSquare is a B2B exchange for buyers and sellers of IT goods and services, where primarily the buyers are small businesses and individuals, and the suppliers are traditional IT resellers. The buyer submits a request for a quote on a particular product, which is then viewed by a network of sellers. After the sellers provide quotes, the buyer is able to compare prices, availability and freight costs to determine who they will purchase from.
The exchange began construction last year, with eSquare appointing an Adelaide-based Web development house for the job. Unfortunately, this outsourcing agreement did not work to eSquare's satisfaction, and after a small pre-launch eSquare director Andrew Lee decided to start from scratch with an internal development team.
"The developers did not realise the scope of building a B2B exchange," said Lee. "There are some complex dynamics involved, and I think their view of what was needed was too small and that compromised the features we wanted. After taking it in-house, we now have a development team with a response time and flexibility that allows us to control what is happening. When you outsource, this control is governed by constraints of time and budget."
After building the site from scratch, the eSquare site (www.esquare.com.au) is now fully functional. An initial trial has attracted 65,000 page views, with 60 buyers and 115 sellers, generating around 600 requests and 36 sales.
These initial sales were made using a Web-based quotation system that relies on sellers logging in to check whether there are any requests for quotes waiting. In the next phase of development, Lee hopes to achieve a real-time quotation system that is integrated into the sellers' existing systems, and has signed a memorandum of understanding with Praxa to complete this integration work.
Lee said this integration was necessary to stimulate the response times of resellers. "The response to the initial trial was very buyer-centric," he said. "Smaller resellers were slow to adapt to the new e-commerce environment. We now have an in-house outbound call system whereby we ring resellers informing them of how many requests are in their inbox."
To counter this issue, the next stage of the eSquare project involves an imminent agreement with Peakhour, whereby Peakhour will provide an e-commerce site via ASP to resellers unable to transact online. Praxa will customise this product to integrate the sites into the eSquare exchange, so that eSquare can access real-time online quotes from even the smallest of resellers.
"At the end of the day, our vision is to have all parts of the supply chain online," said Lee.
Lee also said eSquare was on the verge of signing a licensing technology deal with a major system integrator that wants to build its own B2B hub. Asked whether this would be a competitor to the eSquare exchange, Lee said such arrangements are necessary to ensure channel harmony.
"A lot of suppliers have very close relationships with distributors and vendors," he said. "We don't want to break that up, we want it to be business as usual. We can't afford to upset the channel. So we are happy to provide technology in that regard."