Noble Group takes on e-commerce challenge

Yet another ''vortal'' is in the works. The Noble Group and IBM team up to form an on-line raw materials marketplace, but so far it is little more than a sophisticated matchmaking service.

Providing a matchmaking service for buyers and sellers is the very least many business to business (B2B) hubs can do. But to provide an end-to-end supply chain management online is a complex task, requiring banks, financial institutions, credit agencies, freighters, shippers, custom officials, and inspectors, among others.

One supplier taking on the challenge is The Noble Group, a worldwide supplier of industrial raw materials and transport resources. In conjunction with IBM, The Noble group has created RawMart.com, a new B2B hub which links buyers and sellers in the raw materials markets around the world. RawMart.com envisages that this electronic marketplace will, by 2001, provide end-to-end supply chain management service at e-commerce speed.

At this stage however, RawMart.com is little more than a matchmaking service,ábut as Michael Mudd, commercial director of Noble's Internet Services division elaborates, RawMart.com hopes to deliver more.

"Initially we will enable the discovery process, that is, helping customers to find new buyers and sellers in global markets.áThen we will be adding transaction capabilities for online processing and payments in a secure environment with the banks of their parties' choice. The third stage is to enable the parties to contract ancillary services such as inspection, shipping and insurance online."

RawMart.com is one of the latest 'vortals' (vertical portals) to spring up.áHowever, to some observers the vortal may be little more than an online venture for its parent, The Noble Group, to peddle its wares. But Mudd insists that RawMart.com will attract independent third parties.

ôRawMart.com will be an independent company by the time it is launched, with its own officers, management team and directors, all separate from the Noble Group. Both The Noble Group and third party buyers and sellers of raw materials will, we believe, be attracted to the hub based on the richness of content.ö

Although declining to confirm, Mudd did notárule out the possibility that RawMart.com may make a share offering to the public in the future.

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