Smartbuy close to e-business reality

Smartbuy.com.au is on the eve of realising its dream to reinvent its business model as a provider of e-commerce services to the retail channel.

The company has been hanging on to the financial lifeline offered by the investors (Allco Finance, Brait Capital and Colonial First State Equity) that originally backed former Harvey Norman IT general manager Tony Gattari to form Smartbuy as an online e-tailer.

Now, after months of negotiations, Gattari is set to ratify a deal with a multinational retail giant, possibly as soon as this week.

While a significant deal in itself, the deal provides Gattari with a vital first customer for the new look Smartbuy, securing its future as a provider of Internet, e-commerce and B2B strategies and consulting.

Gattari told ARN today his goal is to make Smartbuy the "brand behind the brand" of leading retail companies.

Since April's tech stock crash, Gattari explained, the entire IT landscape has changed, forcing the still-to-be-launched Smartbuy to radically re-evaluate its business model.

After months of tense negotiations, Gattari said he is relieved to have made it over the hurdle of gaining approval from the company's overseas directors.

"It's absolutely fantastic. I can't tell you, once this deal is done it will be the start of a great challenge in our life," he said.

The company's new mission statement, according to an excerpt obtained by ARN, is to be "integrated with traditional retailers/vendors so we are positioned to be their e-tailing arm. Integration means providing a complete solution in regard to Web site (development, design, hosting, ongoing maintenance), supply lines, distribution, marketing, customer service and administration."

However, Gattari explained the company will choose its partners very carefully, mindful that it cannot work for direct competitors.

The new Smartbuy is aiming to become a one-stop shop of retail customer services, marketing, e-commerce and consulting services.

As a result, it has secured a number of strategic partnerships. Customer Care is providing call centre and help desk facilities, Unique Commerce operates the payment gateway, Unique Web is its main Web developer and the company has an agreement with Davnet to providing Web hosting services.

In addition, Gattari said Smartbuy is extending its existing memorandum of understanding with Australia and will shortly sign a long-term agreement.

Australia Post's Sprintpak division will provide the outfit with a host of cross-docking, warehousing and fulfilment services.

"Having spent three months with them, I know they are very good at what they do," he explained.

Given that Smartbuy intended to launch in May or June, Gattari said it was unfortunate they had to "lay low" for the last five months but "those are the breaks".

He also paid tribute to the 13 staff at Smartbuy who have stuck around while the company figured out its new future. "At the moment the glory should go to the staff -- they made it happen."

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