Alibaba keeps its focus on China despite economic slowdown

Sales for Taobao Marketplace and Tmall expected to top 1 trillion yuan by year-end

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 September, 2012, 3:32am


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Mainland e-commerce giant Alibaba Group said China would remain its focus for the next three years and its operations were not affected by the slowing economic growth on the mainland.

"When the economy is slowing, people want to buy cheap," said Zeng Ming, chief strategy officer for the group.

Year-to-date growth for the company was strong, said Zeng, and sales for Taobao Marketplace, the group's consumer-to-consumer online shopping subsidiary, and Tmall - its business-to-consumer unit - would be more than 1 trillion yuan (HK$1.22 trillion) by the end of the year.

"Our next milestone [for Taobao] will be 3 trillion yuan and that will be close to Walmart's global sales," said Zeng, adding that he expected this target to be reached in about five years.

Sales of Taobao and related companies had already surpassed those of eBay and Amazon. "We are probably more than both of them combined."

Zeng gave no breakdown detailing Alibaba's domestic versus overseas revenues, but said the group's main focus would be China.

Many other domestic online firms have also expanded into the e-commerce business, including leading search engine Baidu and the mainland's largest internet company Tencent. But Zeng said Alibaba understood e-commerce better than online shopping, and the former involved a transformation of the value chain. "This is not something that can easily be understood and achieved in two or three years," he said.

Alibaba's understanding of how small and medium-sized enterprises and entrepreneurs worked in China also gave it a key competitive advantage, said Zeng, and within the next three or four years, the group could look at international opportunities more aggressively.

In fact, "without any effort", more than 5 per cent of Taobao's sales were already being generated from outside China. "We will begin exploring sales outside China starting from this year," he said.

Meanwhile, Alibaba chief executive Jack Ma Yun urged Beijing to restore a market economy guided by the spirit of entrepreneurship.

Ma told entrepreneurs to forge ahead without waiting for favourable policies from the government. They should listen to the market and consumers rather than economists, he said.