Juan Sebastian Olea (C) signing an agreement with Brunei’s Chinese Chamber of Commerce. Image: Waqiuddin Rajak

Brunei now has better chances of increasing its overseas export with the introduction of MondeB2B – an online portal that facilitates business between importers and exporters – into its commercial eco-system.

Its co-founder Juan Sebastian Olea, a Colombian national is currently overseeing its operations across the Asian region, which also includes Brunei.  Besides connecting businesses, MondeB2B is also on a mission to grow exporting capabilities among businesses that are within its footprints.

What is MondeB2B?

MondeB2B is an online trading platform developed to connect Small, Medium Enterprises (SMEs) with international buyers, particularly countries within the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

Images: Waqiuddin Rajak

The trading portal was founded by Olea and his Chilean business partner Sebastián Jaramillo to give SMEs a platform to promote their products to a wider economy, increasing their chances of exporting their goods overseas.

MondeB2B was first developed in Chile before expanding to other Latin American countries including Colombia, Mexico and Peru. 

In Asia, the trading platform had also established footprints in Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, besides Brunei.

At first sight, MondeB2B’s interface seems to have been built after the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba – where products are classified into different categories and users are given choices to order them in quantities that they want.

MondeB2B however specifically targets SMEs, where users have to register onto the platform as companies by classifying themselves either as importers, exporters or partners.

A special feature MondeB2B has is the business validation checkpoint, where MondeB2B will verify the registered companies with their respective local authorities first before giving them the greenlights to trade on its platform.

Images: Waqiuddin Rajak

Co-founder Olea said that this is one of the defining features for MondeB2B as it bumps up its security, assuring businesses that all transactions made via the platform are safe and secure.

For a monthly fee between USD15 and USD49, businesses may be able to enjoy several other services offered in MondeB2B including its marketing consultancy, which may help companies develop better strategies to tackle the international markets.

Where it all began

Jaramillo and Olea were wholesalers who would buy goods from China and North America in bulk and then distribute them throughout Latin American countries prior to establishing MondeB2B.

Both businessmen were involved in this mode of trade since early 2010s.  In 2013, Jaramillo and Olea came up with the idea to start an e-commerce platform that aimed at ‘decentralising global trade’, as reported by Ecuadorian newspaper El-Universo.

Olea explained that it was during this time they began to understand the operational limitations of being a distributor who, at that time, had to travel forth to ensure trade operations remained smooth.

Besides logistics like transportations, Olea said distributors at that time also lacked the means to properly manage their inventories – that it is hard for them to manage many companies.

“A distributor alone can only handle up to 15 brands altogether,” he said.

“And that’s where we came up with the idea of injecting technology into the process,” he added.

Olea and his business partner then began cataloging products into a platform initially called FromOzz, which now allow distributors to easily manage their inventories and trading partners.

It also gives them the capability to see which products performed well in the market, allowing them to formulate proper strategies from there.

Fast forward to 2018, both businessmen end up pitching the platform at the APEC meeting in Chile where they came across Brunei’s Legislative Council Member Yang Berhormat Nik Hafimi Abdul Haadii – who suggested them to establish a footprint in Brunei.

“We see that as a good opportunity so my partner and I decided that he will oversee the trade in North America and Latin American countries, while I took care of the Asian region.  That was why I took a one-way ticket from Chile to here,” Olea said.

Images: Waqiuddin Rajak

“For us, Brunei is just the beginning.  We would definitely like to set up a proper eco-system.  Of course, the hardest part is to begin, but it will definitely go smooth once things finally fall into its place,” he added.

Establishing global presence

Both Olea and his partner is currently looking to set up teams in various countries to oversee MondeB2B’s operations.  These teams, he said, will be the ones to follow-up any transactions made within its digital platform.

Besides operational matters, these teams will also be the ones to conduct market researches to help business formulate appropriate strategies i.e which market they should target and how to push their products to the people.

A fine example, said Olea, are the different types of Hijabs (veils worn by Muslim women), which popularity may vary depending on countries and region.

Teams in each country will also be responsible in keeping good relations with their respective local trade organisations and authorities, besides expanding MondeB2B’s network.

To date, MondeB2B has seen participation from 30 Bruneian businesses onto its platform.

“These numbers are currently the same across countries that were present in as we are working at the same speed.  The most I think would be Colombia, with 60 exporters already onboard,” Olea said.

“We are looking to officially launch our platform at this year’s APEC Summit which will be held in November 14.  By November 1, we are targeting to have around 50-100 businesses from each country coming onboard our platform,

“There are many other things we need to set up, such as the transportation and other logistics to distribute these goods – we know it will take time for the portal to take off but that’s normal in business,

“And the biggest challenge for this is ‘trust’, you cannot trade with someone you cannot trust and that is why we still appreciate the offline interactions; because it is the people that connects, so we hope to establish more links with local trade authorities as we go by,” Olea added.

This article was first published on October 19, 2019 in our Weekly E-Paper issue 59

The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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