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"Digital Era – The Best Time for SMEs in History" by Diane Wang

Picture of Diane Wang, Founder & CEO, DHgate

Diane Wang, Founder & CEO of DHgate and SME Taskforce Co-Chair


For over a decade, I have constantly been asked: How does a woman, with two kids, run an international business. My answer is - the internet.

I still remember the day I left a Fortune 500 company, when I gave up the admirable title and benefits, in exchange for a tiny office with ten employees and a smelly toilet next door. Our greatest asset was our dream, which seemed unachievable in some people’s mind: to build an online bridge connecting SMEs with the world.

13 years have passed. Today, more than 10 million SMEs are selling their goods and services worldwide, through our online marketplace, realizing their entrepreneurship dreams.

Today, what seems like a day dream in the past, has become the reality.

  • A Canadian student can sit in a coffee shop, video-chatting with his American friends, discussing their next gathering in Thailand;
  • A Chinese bride can message her French designer, to order a wedding gown produced by an Italian manufacturer through cross border e-commerce platforms, for her upcoming wedding ceremony in Australia;

The world is more connected than ever before. Thanks to digital platforms, globalization is speeding up and revolutionizing the way we live our lives and run our businesses. 

According to the research:

  • Digitalization contributed over 22 percent of the global economy in 2015, and the number is expected to reach 25 percent by 2020.
  • Over 50 percent of the world’s traded services are already digitalized.
  • Over 12 percent of the world’s traded goods are completed through digital platforms.

Digital platforms open up new opportunities for all types of businesses

  • by lowering transaction and communication costs;
  • by bringing buyers and sellers together from all over the world;
  • and by integrating all kinds of value added services to facilitate international trading.

With digital platforms, SMEs can access global markets, and become “Micro-Multinationals” from day one.

  • SMEs no longer need to learn the complicated procedures to complete a cross border transaction.
  • SMEs no longer need to hire overseas business development managers to introduce their products and services.
  • SMEs no longer need to pay experts to avoid conflicts with local laws and regulations.

Instead, SMEs can simply allow digital platforms to process cross border orders in a safe, cost-effective manner.

With digital platforms, SME’s can access internet financing like never before.

  • Online sellers can apply for a micro loan of up to tens of thousands of US dollars in just a few clicks.
  • The money will be automatically wired into SMEs’ accounts, with no collateral or guarantors required.
  • Data such as the transaction history, customer reviews, and logistics information can all become endorsements to help you obtain credit and loans from financial institutions.
  • Everything can be completed online within half an hour.

In China, we have witnessed millions of SMEs benefit from digital platforms.

  • In 2013, China surpassed the United States to become the largest e-commerce market in the world, with the overall online transaction value reaching 1.5 trillion US dollars; this number quickly exceeded 3 trillion US dollars in 2016.
  • Over 45 million jobs have been created by e-commerce;
  • Over 1.5 trillion US dollar value of internet financing has been given to SMEs;
  • According to McKinsey, by 2025, up to 22 percent of China’s GDP will be contributed by e-commerce.

With cross-border digital platforms:

  • Chilean farmers can find international buyers for their blueberries, without any going to waste.
  • Young moms can stay at home and work part-time jobs without leaving their babies.
  • Kids from remote areas can access a quality education without leaving their village. 

Right now,

  • It is the best of times, or the worst of times;
  • It is the spring of innovation, or the winter of stagnation;
  • It is the time to stand out, or the time to get out.

What is your choice?

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