AIS plans Q-Mall e-commerce platform for Jamaican businesses


AIS plans Q-Mall e-commerce platform for Jamaican businesses

Senior staff reporter

Friday, May 22, 2020

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It is almost eight months since leading technology solutions company Advanced Integrated Systems (AIS) publicly announced plans for the launch of an e-commerce platform for Jamaica, known as Q-Mall.

But AIS, a 30-year-old veteran in the technology solutions business in Jamaica and a highly ranked expert in the field, had been timely putting the pieces together for what it believes will be one of the major lucrative post-COVID-19 economic recovery developments, a platform for the average Jamaican businesses searching for life outside the normal brick and mortar environment.

According to AIS, Q-Mall is the first comprehensive e-commerce platform specifically geared towards Jamaican and Caribbean vendors to provide worldwide reach. It aims to provide small and medium enterprises (SMEs), for example, with an increased chance of success, and encourage entrepreneurship by reducing capital costs that would be invested in acquiring a physical location for sales.

“We are widening Q-Mall to include the Diaspora, too. I think what we need to do is to show somebody from the Diaspora administration how it can be done. We are about to start negotiations with one of the international carriers to handle all of our North American logistics,” AIS Chairman and CEO Douglas Halsall told the Jamaica Observer.

He said that the long-awaited platform, which is now close to public exposure, will enable the SMEs to navigate this fundamental shift in retail operation, by providing a highly innovative and integrated e-commerce platform, with a comprehensive set of tools for managing every aspect of digital commerce, including inventory, ordering processing, logistics and packaging, marketing and loyalty.

“SMEs will now have an avenue through which to market and sell their goods in Jamaica, across the Caribbean, and in other international markets allowing them to expand and provide additional employment,” he said.

“If you have a great idea and that idea is in retail or manufacturing, you don't need to get an expensive building or store in any expensive plaza, Q-Mall will be your plaza. Even if you are already in brick and mortar you can respond by joining Q-Mall,” he said.

“One of the things we are saying to the farmers is to join together in a group, and have your own fulfillment centre and all the housewives in Kingston and Montego Bay, or wherever, will come on Q-Mall and order and we will even take care of the logistics, because we can get TARA to pick it up and deliver it,” Halsall went on.

He said that one of the issues which have bedeviled the project is that Jamaica has a very high level of unbanked people (with no relationship with banks). It is understood that about 80 per cent of the population are outside the formal banking system. With no salaries going to the banks, no debit or credits cards, their relationship has become outdated, he stated.

“We have been saying from about six, seven years ago, that the digitalisation of the economy is a must and will happen and, as an entrepreneur, your mind focuses on the trends and what is going to happen. If your timing is right, you win. But, you lose some, you win some. It could not have happened at a better time for us, because we certainly never anticipated the coronavirus, but that has driven telemedicine and e-commerce.

“However, it is about time that the authorities in Jamaica understand that Jamaicans' mental capacity is not any less than the American, or the Japanese. We just don't have the opportunity, so when we discover something and prove that it can work, give us a break, man. It's about the colour of capital in Jamaica getting a little melanin,” he noted.

AIS not only has deep roots in the ICT sector, but it also has a bond with particularly the Ministry of Health and Wellness which has benefited both immensely especially in terms of boosting the telemedicine capacity of the University Hospital of the West Indies(UHWI).

AIS is a leading provider of financial services across the Caribbean, health and hospitality solutions for hospitals and pharmacies, and has been pioneering several new areas including mobile banking through the Quisk electronic payment system which is being used by the National Commercial Bank (NCB).

Halsall, whose career in the sector began with NCR, has mouthful of experiences from his work in the local sector.

“For example, when I put in the first ATM at NCB, even my friends at the Tropic Club said Jamaicans would never learn to use an ATM. That's the kind of argument you got,” he noted.

However, with a much younger generation of Jamaicans growing up on tablets, cellphones and laptops and heralding the digitalised future, which also includes mobile money which was introduced to the banks by AIS, just as COVID-19 has sent every area of communications into virtual reality he sees tremendous opportunities for his ideas, including the Q-Mall.

Halsall alos pointed out that the Q- does not even use a swipe card.

“This (COVID-19) could be an ongoing thing for ever. So, it is going to increase entrepreneurial activities and it is going to increase business transactions, and all that must be good for Jamaica. But people need to have an account in the bank,” he advised.

He said that an account in the bank is needed to join the Q-Mall, and the company will need banking partners.Quisk, which has complete and secure banking functionality.

“Your phone number, which is an unique number, is your account number. So when you go to an ATM and it is time to swipe the card all you have to do is to put in your phone number and your pin. Point of Sale terminals you put in the phone number and the pin. That is the number of your bank account.

Halsall and his team met with state minister in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Floyd Green, recently and he said that he is very impressed with the feedback from those discussions, especially from one of the bright, young members of parliament.

“The whole team was happy, and we explained how the mall could help agriculture. He and his team was very happy,” he told the Caribbean Business Report.

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