SEPANG, Malaysia, April 9 (Xinhua) -- Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) participating in the Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ), an e-commerce project backed by the Malaysian government and ChIna's Alibaba, have generated a total sales of 52.1 million ringgit (13.5 million U.S. dollars) since its launch in November, officials said on Monday.
The number of SMEs in the DFTZ SME Onboarding Program has increased from 1,972 to 2,651, said Mustapa Mohamed, minister of international trade and industry at a media briefing. He said the target is to reach 10,000 in the end.
Mustapa made the remarks after a visit to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) Air-Cargo Terminal area, where part of the DFTZ is located. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Alibaba executive chairman Jack Ma jointly launched the project in November.
Mustapa also highlighted the role of DFTZ in helping to bring SMEs to the world market. "This initiative is going to help a lot of SMEs, it's going to bring more SMEs from every part of Malaysia to the world stage," he said.
Hozen Lim, business development manager for Green World Recycling, a rubber reclaim company, said DFTZ and Alibaba-related clearance and customs services have greatly improved the business efficiency of SMEs.
Lim's company, which was founded in 2007, only jumped on the e-commerce bandwagon in 2017, but their volume had more than tripled in 2017.
Lim said they already exported 10 standard containers in the first three months of 2017, a volume level they only manage to do in the whole year in 2016.
The Malaysian government plans to expand the DFTZ beyond KLIA to include all modes of connectivity, namely sea, land and rail, with Port Klang as well as Penang and Senai international airports identified as a priority of expansion.
According to a press release from Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB), the work progress is on track for site handover in August this year to a joint venture between Alibaba's logistics affiliate Cainiao and MAHB.
The Malaysian government is trying to secure other key e-commerce marketplaces to utilize DFTZ as their regional e-fulfillment hub.