Thomas Goes Global: Too Little, Too Late?

Earlier today, Thomas Register, the old standby for locating domestic suppliers, announced it is taking an increased focus on helping companies identify global sources of supply. According to the announcement, Thomas is combining its "Global website, tgrnet.com, with other Thomas international Websites in Europe, India, China and Japan ... the new site will enable management, specifiers and purchasers to source -- from one site -- the industrial products and services of more than 700,000 qualified global companies." While the announcement is good news for anyone looking to identify low cost country suppliers, Thomas is late to the global supplier identification game relative to Alibaba and other sources of international supplier information and intelligence.

In my view, there is still no panacea when it comes to a global supplier database. But it will certainly be interesting to observe whether the young turks of global supplier identification, Alibaba and Yahoo, are more likely to come up with creative tools and services to help organizations identify and qualify global suppliers than the slow-moving Thomas Dinosaurs of the market. Or perhaps Ariba, Open Ratings, D&B or another company will get their act together and come up with a new type of compelling, stand-alone global supplier identification tool that takes on the traditional "publishing-based" players. Or maybe even Google will come up with an unstructured search capability that completely changes the rules of the supplier identification game. We'll see, but I've yet to see a software or services firm understand the dynamics of publishing-based business models (which so far, is the only model to have any traction in this market). Back when I was at FreeMarkets, we had a golden opportunity to do this, but we failed for a number of reasons which I'll discuss in a later post.

Jason Busch

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