What is Alibaba, China’s E-commerce Giant?


Q&A US | China | internet |

Formed in the Hangzhou flat of co-founder Jack Ma in 1999, Alibaba has ridden the seemingly insatiable Chinese appetite for online shopping to become one of the world’s most valuable companies.

On Friday, the US-listed company confirmed plans to add its value further, but listing additional shares in Hong Kong in an offering worth around $13 billion.

Here are the answers to key questions about the company:

– How did Alibaba start? –

Ma, a former English teacher who claims to have never written a line of computer code, had dabbled in various ventures with mixed success before friends introduced him to the internet while on a 1990s trip to the United States.

With Amazon already making waves in online shopping, Ma convinced a group of Chinese and foreign friends to front $60,000 in 1999 for a business-to-business e-commerce venture.

Ma dubbed it “Alibaba” because the name is easily pronounced in virtually any language, including Chinese, and because the “open sesame” catchphrase signified that its platforms “open a doorway to fortune for small businesses”, according to the company.

– Why has it been so successful? –

Alibaba was founded at a time when Chinese incomes were soaring after decades of rapid economic growth and the country was becoming increasingly digitalised.

That allowed Alibaba to easily facilitate commerce between consumers increasingly hooked on the ease of online shopping, and the country’s countless manufacturers of cheap goods.

Today, China has the world’s largest online population — in excess of 850 million — most of them smartphone users deeply immersed in the country’s growing digital ecosystem and e-commerce.

The business generated by Alibaba’s own mobile monthly active users — which reached 785 million in the most recent financial latest quarter — propelled rapid growth, and in September 2014, the company listed on Wall Street, raising $25 billion in what remains the largest IPO ever.

– What does it do? –

E-commerce remains the company’s bread and butter, conducted mainly via its largely consumer-to-consumer Taobao site and the more business-to-consumer Tmall, and typically paid for via its digital-payments unit Alipay, which has become a pioneer in that sector.

Through Alibaba’s platforms, Chinese consumers can buy a wide array of products from clothing to electronics, food, luxury products and even more unusual goods — including Boeing 747 cargo planes.

But Alibaba’s success has seen it invest heavily in new business lines as well.

It owns leading Chinese video streaming website Youku, and its Alibaba Pictures unit in 2016 bought a stake in Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners, which owns DreamWorks Pictures, among other entertainment ventures.

It also is investing in cloud computing and other aspects of China’s growing digital ecosystem including the acquisition of Chinese food-delivery leader Ele.me.

– How big is it? –

Alibaba is now the most valuable public Chinese company, with a market capitalisation of around $477 billion as of this week, and one of the top-10 most valuable in the world, though still trailing US e-commerce counterpart Amazon, which is worth around $870 billion.

Alibaba now claims nearly 104,000 employees at its headquarters in Ma’s hometown of Hangzhou in China’s eastern province of Zhejiang, but also around China and overseas.

The company has in recent years taken steps to go global, primarily in Southeast Asia where it runs the Lazada e-commerce platform.


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Chinese Online Giant Alibaba To Donate $145m To Women’s Football

China’s second richest man Jack Ma will contribute to a $145 million donation to the Chinese women’s football squad, it was announced Friday, who despite underfunding routinely outperform the men’s national team.

The one billion yuan ($145 million) donation from Ma – the founder of online shopping giant Alibaba – and two other charitable foundations will be spread over the coming decade.

It will contribute to “injury prevention and treatment, the career development of retired footballers, technical development and coach education, and youth development,” a joint statement said.

China made the Women’s World Cup – now underway in France – for the seventh time in eight editions, and boasts a record that the men’s team can only envy.

But the women’s side does more with far less support, and professional women’s football in China gets little notice and plays to meagre attendances.

The team put in a respectable showing in France, going out in the round of 16.

But they have slipped below the world’s best since reaching the 1999 final against the powerhouse Americans, where China lost on penalties, and insiders worry they will slide further without more backing.

Alipay, the charitable foundation of Alibaba, will fund “the bulk” of the initiative, Friday’s announcement said.

The rest comes from separate foundations established by Ma, and executive vice chairman Joseph Tsai.

The three parties aim to make soccer “more sustainable and accessible to girls and women across the nation”.

Cai Yong, an executive committee member of the Chinese Football Association, called the gift “unprecedented”, according to the statement.

Alibaba is a minority stakeholder in perennial power Guangzhou Evergrande of the men’s Chinese Super League.

Nets Owner Sells 49% Stake To Alibaba Co-Founder

FILE COPY Rondae Hollis-Jefferson #24 of the Brooklyn Nets shoot the ball during the game against the Chicago Bulls at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.                                                  Photo Credit:  NBAE Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images/AFP


Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov on Thursday completed the sale of a 49% stake in the NBA franchise to one of the founders of Chinese e-commerce titan Alibaba, the NBA franchise announced in a statement.

The Nets said Russian billionaire Prokhorov would continue to be the controlling owner of the team, and there would be no changes in the day-to-day management of the franchise following the sale to Joseph Tsai.

No figures were revealed in the statement, but reports have valued the Nets at around $2.3 billion.

“It was important to us that we choose a partner who shares our commitment to the highest standards as we create a truly wonderful NBA franchise,” Prokhorov said.

“I welcome Joe to the organisation and I am looking forward to working with him for years to come.”

Tsai, who described himself as a lifelong sports fan, said he hoped to help expand the Nets brand across the globe.

“Basketball is a global sport and the NBA is one of the most recognized brands in the world,” said Tsai, a Taiwan-born Canadian citizen.

“I am excited about the NBA’s international growth prospects, and hope to play a part in bringing the NBA and the special character of the Brooklyn Nets to fans around the world,” he added.

Tsai co-founded Alibaba in 1999, and has an estimated net worth of around $9.7 billion according to Forbes.

The Nets said Thursday’s deal included an option for Tsai to purchase further shares of the team in 2021 which would give him a controlling interest in the team.

The share sale does not include the Nets home of the Barclays Center, which will continue to be wholly owned by Prokhorov’s Onexim Sports and Entertainment group.

Completion of the deal comes after the Nets finished the 2017-2018 regular season in 12th place in the Eastern Conference standings, outside the playoff berths with a record of 28-54.


China’s Alibaba Under Fire Over Use Of Customer Data


Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has come under fire over its handling of user data in an episode that underscores growing concerns for privacy in the hyper-digitised country.

Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial was forced to apologise on Wednesday after users said they felt misled into allowing its Alipay service to share data on their spending habits with Ant’s credit-scoring arm and other third-party services.

Controlled by Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma, Ant Financial provides mobile payment, lending, and credit services to millions of Chinese consumers, and the controversy has featured prominently in China’s state-controlled media this week.

Consumers have come to expect a lack of privacy in a country where the government collects a file of personal data on each person including financial, education and other information, and where video surveillance is widespread.

But many Chinese internet users reacted with unusual outrage to learn that Alipay, which is used by millions daily to make mobile and online purchases on Alibaba’s Taobao platform and elsewhere, had automatically checked a box and hidden language showing they agreed to share their data.

“It’s just like Taobao profiting from selling our information, there’s no way to refuse!” one user of China’s Twitter-like Weibo service complained.

The sale of personal information is common in China, which last year implemented a controversial cybersecurity law that among other things requires services to store user data in China and receive approval from users before sharing their details.

“Because lots of information is already out there, everyone thinks there is no way to protect our personal information,” said Yue Shenshan, the lawyer whose online posts helped highlight the Ant Financial issue.

“But if we don’t focus on protecting our private information right now, the situation will only worsen.”

Ant Financial embedded the new policy in a page Alipay users see when they click through to see their 2017 spending activity.

Screenshots of the activity are frequently freely shared on social media by users who boast either about their purchasing power — or frugality.

“So angry” wrote one executive at a Beijing internet company who this week posted a screenshot of his 9.6 million yuan ($1.48 million) Alipay tab for the year. The data also revealed he ranked 301 on a list of the largest spenders in one district of Beijing.

Ant Financial said in a statement that it has since changed the opt-in policy and showed users how to change their settings.

“We are deeply sorry to everyone for the misunderstanding and panic this incident caused,” it said.

Privacy is a particularly high-profile issue now as the Chinese government is in the process of developing a national “social credit” scoring system that may rate people on everything from their credit-worthiness to their loyalty to the Communist Party.

Ant Financial’s credit-scoring unit Sesame Credit may someday feed data into that system.

The Alipay controversy arose just as regulators in Washington this week rejected Ant Financial’s proposed acquisition of US-based MoneyGram after concerns were raised over the security of American customers’ data.


Amazon Takes On Alibaba, Launches Prime Now Service In Singapore

A clash of the e-commerce titans in Southeast Asia, with Amazon launching its 2-hour express delivery service Prime Now in Singapore on Thursday, putting itself in direct competition with Chinese giant Alibaba for the very first time.

The move to the tiny, but wealthy, the city has been hotly anticipated.

Amazon has largely sidestepped China, but Singapore is seen as a gateway to Southeast Asia’s 600 million people who only do a fraction of their buying online.

Industry experts are bracing for a fierce battle as the two go head-to-head.

Alibaba already has a presence in the region, recently upping its stake in Lazada, an e-commerce firm with a foothold in six Southeast Asian countries.

Analysts expect Amazon to roll out services in major cities across the region in the next six months. But while it has the money and technical knowledge to challenge Alibaba, setting up shop won’t be easy.

As well as various regulatory hurdles, Amazon will have to find a way around logistical barriers, like the huge number of islands that make up the Philippines, or Jakarta’s paralyzing traffic. Not to mention poor internet connections across the region.

Government Urged To Embrace Data Democracy To End Corruption

Data-DemocracyNigeria cannot be successful in the fight against corruption until it democratises data and breaks the wall of secrecy that surrounds public finance.

This was one of the strong messages at ‘The Platform Abuja 2016’ held on Saturday.

It is a global media event that focuses on facilitating growth in Nigeria through personal capacities and productivity.

Poor Data Culture

According to the Co-founder of BudgIT, Seun Onigbinde, Nigeria’s poor data culture had made diversification of the economy an uphill task.

He stressed the need for a data revolution, pointing out that corruption would remain unless data were made available and accessible.

Resource persons at the event, one of whom was the Chief Executive Officer of Interswitch, Mitchell Elegbe, also harped on tapping overlooked resources to shift the nation’s economy away from reliance on crude oil revenue.

Over three thousand persons attended The Platform Abuja 2016

While some spoke on agriculture which they emphasised could be a perfect option to oil if well explored others stressed the need to explore digital technology that could give Nigerians the number of employment government was unable to provide in the time frame Nigerians required them.

Alibaba stressed the need for rich Nigerians to invest in the entertainment industry

Arts and entertainment is another sector that a Nigerian Comedian, Alibaba, said could bring billions of foreign exchange to Nigeria through tourism.

For over five hours, they brainstormed to encourage more than 3,000 youths present, to finally rise up to the task of empowering themselves while waiting for government to do their bit.

It is not the first time that the fall in oil price would be tagged an advantage for Nigeria’s economy but an agro-business expert, the National Coordinator, Nigeria Agribusiness Group, Emmanuel Ijewere, asserted that a crop like cassava could give Nigeria biofuel, ethanol and oil, but expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that it had remained untapped because the nation depended so much on crude oil sales.

The issues highlighted at the forum serve as a call to action to the youths of Nigeria to look around them, find niches to fill and build business that would create jobs for majority of Nigerians until government is set to play its part.

Alibaba’s ‘Piracy’ Appeal To President Jonathan Backfires

AlibabaAlibaba’s appeal to President Goodluck Jonathan to help rid the entertainment industry of pirates backfired as some entertainers did not take likely to his demand.

At an interactive session with the President recently, entertainers from the music and movie industries especially gathered to show their support for the President’s second term bid.

The session featured several live performances from singers including Waje, Oritsefemi, Sir Victor Uwaifo and many others.

However, Alibaba was more interested in issues plaguing the industry, piracy being the top item on the list.

During a question and answer session, Alibaba asked the President to help rid the entertainment market of pirates, rather than continue to give financial support as he had done throughout his first term in office.

“How are we going to deal with pirates so that we can put our products in the market and make money from it; Because if you give us $5 billion to bring a product out in the market, as soon as it is in the market, if a pirate gets one it’s over.”

The comedian told Entertainment News on Channels TV that some of his colleagues had asked “crappy questions that did not add value”, which indicated that they were concerned about getting money from the government.

However, some entertainers did not appreciate his question about piracy and had accused him of asking a question by the opposition, APC.

Alibaba has debunked this claim and has said he would ask President-elect Muhammadu Buhari the same question, if given the opportunity.

“It is not about money. It is about the enabling structure and platform for our businesses to thrive,” he said.

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Yaw,Lolo,Katherine,Skeals To Star In Pepper Soup

Popular comedian Steve Onu also known as Yaw alongside OAPs Lolo1, Katherine Obiang, Lawal Sherif (Skeals) Tuebi amongst others have come together to star in a comedy stage play titled “Pepper Soup”.

Ace comedians Ali Baba, Mc Abbey and Gbenga Adeyinka have been confirmed as special guests on the show.

The producers have revealed that two foreign actresses Carla Chidiac and Caitlin Conaty will feature in the stage play.

According to one of the producers,Tuebi Abidde “I am very excited to return back to the stage acting alongside Steve Onu aka Yaw and having the opportunity to work with the Director, Sola Roberts

The stage play is produced by Playfactory and Tualenaija Media and is scheduled to hold at the Terra Culture, Victoria Island.