Commentator Rod Oram suggests that the micro-to-small enterprise sector, those businesses with five or fewer staff, constitute a neglected area of the e-commerce market.
“I’m not sure the e-tools that have been developed are right for this sector”, Oram said at the New Zealand e-commerce conference marking the first anniversary of the E-commerce Action Team.
Collaboration through Ecat, he says, could be a way for devising such tools.
Oram made the evident, but seldom spelt-out, connection between e-commerce and the controversial term “globalisation”. Like it or not, countries and national economies are more dependent one on another, he says. Perhaps the out-of-favour globalisation could be replaced by interdependence, he says.
The interdependence of nations insulates each more powerfully against the vicissitudes of economic life.
He cites the lack of effect of the economic disaster in Argentina on the rest of South America, contrasted with the region-wide effect of the 2000 southeast Asian recession, as an example of this insulating effect.
New Zealand stands in an excellent position to contribute to the global economy, even through its small companies, whose products and services can slot into an international value chain.
“We in New Zealand [with our predominance of small companies] can innovate,” he says. Larger companies in major economies find it harder.
There are already some outstanding examples of innovative New Zealand design and manufacture finding prominence overseas. Oram cited McIntosh Timber Laminates, which made a 50m diameter laminated wooden roof for the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
Oram borrowed a phrase from Ecat head Gil Simpson, unable to be present at the meeting: “You [a small NZ company] must look bigger than you are”, a strategy greatly aided by e-commerce.
New business models are emerging for e-commerce involving integration through industry associations, he says. A number of such associations were represented at the meeting.