DATUK Peter Ng has spent over three decades building his education group. And when UCSI recently ventured into the e-commerce sector, some eyebrows may have been raised.
But Ng insists that everything he does is related to education.
Note that UCSI had ventured into the hospitality sector a few years ago when it opened its own Le Quadri Hotel and UCSI Kuching Hotel. The group also has a stake in the healthcare field with its Laurent Bleu Skin Science and Wellness Centre and its University Hospital, which will be opened later in May.
All these ventures, he says, provide the students at UCSI with a strong platform for a practical education, where they can learn how to do the job on the job.
Ng explains that UCSI wants to build several praxis centres for its students in different fields.
“We want to teach our students from our own experiences, not from borrowed platforms. So we want to build successful ventures that our students can go into and learn about entrepreneurship and where they can get practical training,” says Ng.
And online retail provides students with an opportunity to learn many things such as retail, logistics, warehousing and understanding the power of the Internet.
Going into the e-commerce space seems a natural step to take in expanding the UCSI Group.
“The synergy between all these little ventures lie in realising the individual components well. When each components do well, then the sum of its parts will be greater,” he says.
The e-commerce platform has been two years in the making and the group launched UniComms-eMall in mid-February with little fanfare.
UniComms-eMall chief executive officer Brendan Lanza explains that the portal will employ a business-to-business-to-consumer model, which will empower consumers and businesses with greater flexibility when it comes to making online purchases.
“The first differentiating factor you’ll see at UniComms-eMall is the facilitation of sales and purchases in bulk. This is an uncommon feature for many of the current online malls and we believe that it is a powerful tool that encourages B2B engagement, particularly amongst SMEs.
“While some existing players have already made a name for themselves in the market, e-commerce has so much potential for growth in Malaysia and the region. There is enough space in the market for us to make a market for ourselves. You just need to carve out a portion of that huge market for yourself,” says Lanza.
He cites data from the International Trade and Industry Ministry, which projected that Malaysia’s B2C e-commerce landscape will grow to US$3.4bil by 2020 at an annual growth rate of 11%.
Currently, e-commerce contributes slightly over 2% of Malaysia’s total retail market, leaving it with much potential for growth.
Lanza believes that with its small setup, UniComms-eMall still has the flexibility to change and adapt to market demand quickly.
The new online mall currently carries more than 100 brands with products ranging from electronics, fashion, beauty, health to home and living. Lanza hopes to have 2,000 vendors on its site by mid-2018.
“From a praxis perspective, this portal offers students a good learning platform. There is a grand strategy at play where we build the ecosystem for the students.
“We may be small at the moment but we hope to make a splash as we go along. There really is no telling where this will go. Look at how UCSI turned out,” he adds.