The so-called Xom website platform for steel launched by Klöckner & Co could be a rare example of an e-commerce venture which grows westward from a European base, according to Klöckner ceo Gisbert Rühl.
Xom is now operational in the USA, “… where there is indeed no similar open platform for steel,” Rühl tells Kallanish at the annual ‘Zukunft Stahl’ conference organised by Handelsblatt and Euroforum. “There are American platforms that are proprietary to service centres, for example, but none that are open to other parties,” he says. In contrast to iKlöckner, which is a website for Klöckner’s own distribution business, Xom invites other distribution firms onto the platform. It is now seeking venture capital investors, so that the German steel distribution group will eventually be a minority stakeholder.
The platform by now is active in 16 countries and, according to Rühl, has no similar competitor, either in America or in Europe. Last year, the Berlin-based Xom supported steel transactions worth €7 million ($8m). This year, the volume will already be passing €30 million, Rühl said. “In fragmented industries like ours, such platforms will only prevail if they are independent.”
When asked why Klöckner has launched such a venture, Rühl replies “… if we don’t do it, someone else will, and then we will have to link up with someone else’s platform. – As a distributor, you need to position yourself at an early stage so as to not to be disrupted.”
He notes that this type of operation is not to everyone’s taste, but it will be driven by the customers. “Nothing is more convenient than having access to many sources and producers on one channel,” he says.