Digitisation of trade ‘opens up the world’ to SMEs

Gautam Sashittal, CEO of DMCC says technology levels the playing field between developed countries and emerging markets

Dubai Multi Commodities Centre Authority, the world leader in global trade, gathered more than 150 experts across five continents for ten months to ask: What is The Future of Trade? Gautam Sashittal, CEO of DMCC talks to Vision at Google Campus London about how the digitisation of trade around the world will unlock future opportunity and change the global flow of goods, talent and finance. 

How does digitisation add value to global trade?

Digitisation isn’t just about getting costs down internally; it’s really about putting the customer at the centre. How do you improve the customer experience, and do more with less? How do you deliver goods more efficiently, improve payments systems and returns? That’s what will change trade as we know it. We also believe technology will level the playing field between developed countries and emerging markets. One of my colleagues had an interesting story about his friend, based in California, who ordered a bespoke bicycle made from bamboo from Ghana. He apparently did everything, including the clearance via customs, online, and received it in California. So that’s the power of digitisation – it opens the world up to even the smallest of SMEs.

Do you see digitisation changing the types of products we want?

I do, actually. If we think about 3D printing in that context, I read recently that Amazon is fitting 3D printers inside their trucks. So you can create bespoke products for yourself. If you want a garment that is in a different colour, can it be produced for you specifically? Can the company respond to you?

Do you think digitisation will make location redundant? Or will it push forward hubs that are more au fait with technology?

The challenge will be to see which businesses, countries or hubs adopt digitisation more readily. Emerging markets are really jumping over their traditional counterparts, not even necessarily via the internet, but by phone. For example, there’s a payment gateway in India called Paytm that was set up in 2014 and will have 100 million users by 2016. That’s the aspiration. What that does is, apart from increase efficiency and people in trading and commerce, move from a cash to an electronic society. It increases transparency, and reduces complexity.

How do you think the DMCC Future of Trade report conclusions will impact on your freezone?

For me, the story of the future of trade is not the end – it’s just the beginning. We had conversations with more than 150 individuals across three continents. Does this give us the ability to act? Yes it does, but the conversation needs to continue and it needs to get more granular. Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin (Founder of Ethiopia's first Commodity Exchange) explains how cocoa, coffee and other commodities produced in Africa goes quite a distance. For example, I heard recently that coffee out of Ethiopia comes into Europe and gets stored, and then goes back to the Middle East. Does it need to make that long journey? Are there ways of doing value addition within our own region?  Today, we handle about 45 million kilos of tea from DMCC, which comes from more than 20 countries. And tea is produced all around Dubai. What we do is provide a venue where all those teas can be warehoused, blended, packaged, before they go where they have to go.