17 November 2004

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A B2B compass

DAVID LINDSAY speaks to Kompass Malta’s Albert Borg Cardona about the innovative business to business website franchise kompass.com

While business opportunities abound in today’s increasingly globalised world, many small companies remain at a loss when it comes to making the essential business to business contacts it takes to take the quantum leap to big business. Larger companies, meanwhile, devote a significant amount of resources to finding new business opportunities.
Kompass.com has made the business world that little bit smaller by bringing businesses closer together.
While the internet version of Kompass is relatively new to Malta, many will remember the brand in its previous incarnation as a rather hefty international trade directory.
As Albert Borg Cardona explains, while the trade directories served as a major source of company information, the bound format came to an end with the advent of the digital age.
“Five years ago, with the advent of the internet, the whole system was taken a step further from being solely a trade directory to becoming an on line system through which users are able to view full profiles on companies from around the world and use the numerous other services provided. Basically it’s a database for companies that want to expose their products and services available to a wider, international audience.
“Today’s web-based system allows for much more than simply listing your company and product information. Kompass is a kind of marketplace through which companies attempting to find contacts outside their countries can use the system to view a wide range of company information.”
It would require a large book indeed to include the site’s 23 million product and service references, broken down into 53,000 categories spread across 1.8 million companies in 75 countries. The database also includes 750,000 trade names, 3.6 million executive names and is available in no less than 22 languages – with Chinese being the latest addition.
Set up in April of this year, Kompass Malta, which has been endorsed by the Federation of Industry and Malta Enterprise, is still relatively new, with some 150 Maltese companies having listed themselves. The number, however, is projected to rise.
“We are looking at a target, in two years, of around 2,000 companies,” Mr Borg Cardona explains. “This would be more or less representative of the companies involved in the sectors Kompass targets – services, trade and industry.”
How does a Maltese company get itself listed on the database, I ask.
“What happens is we go through a selection process in which we target certain companies that have something to do with international trading. Once we have that, we visit the companies, take down their details and a basic amount of information pertaining to the company such as export or import regions and countries and product and services ranges.
“Our classification system is divided into three main sectors: industry, trading and services. Those three sectors are then divided into roughly 23 million specific products and services, under which each company is listed, due to the fact that in business, when you’re looking for contacts you’re not content with just looking for furniture companies, for example. In most cases, companies are looking for a precise product or service and the way in which the system is organised ensures that all contacts are as relevant as possible. This classification system is being constantly updated as more products become listed and others are dropped.”
There are two ways to join the site as an advertiser: either by taking out a free subscription, which allows for the listing of basic company information while paying, subscribed users would be allowed full access to the company information regardless of the company’s status.
Advertising companies, meanwhile, would have their full company information fully accessible to even the free users browsing the system. Kompass has a number of packages for companies advertising on the site and each company is weighted within the system according to the advertising they take out, very much the same way most internet search engines operate.
For the browser, full company information access is allowed for paid up users or if the company being browsed is an advertiser. Free users, however, won’t have access to advanced search options and are not able to see the full database and are only able to read the advertised companies.
Mr Borg Cardona calculates that, on average, advertising companies get about 20 times more exposure than free listed companies.
While Mr Borg Cardona describes local take up to the site as positive, he also cites lingering reluctance from certain sectors toward the internet itself.
“It’s a matter of time until more companies become more internet-oriented and gain confidence in this type of medium. Also, a lot of companies say they can search for information themselves on the internet. The only problem there is that in takes hours to search for information on generic search engines, which bring up a great deal of information that is more or less irrelevant, while in many cases you simply cannot be sure that the company information found on a generic search engine is correct.
“The information found on Kompass, on the other hand, is collected and screened through an active sales programme. Additionally, the fact that we list companies under very specific products and services makes the information so much more relevant. So if you’re looking for chairs, for example, a search only returns companies involved in chair manufacturing or distribution. As an advanced user, you can even specify that you want exports only or companies that have a certain level of turnover. The site allows a wide range of criteria that can be combined to deliver the results you want, and it just takes a matter of seconds.
“We also compile statistics on each and every company listed. As such, we can monitor the type of activity that’s happening on the site, which shows that it’s not a static site where you just put your name there for the sake of showing it and nothing comes from it.”

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
The Malta Financial & Business Times, Newsworks Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann
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