PetroChina launches store on Alibaba’s Tmall as China’s energy giants follow Premier Li’s ‘internet-plus’ policy

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 August, 2015, 7:30am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 August, 2015, 7:30am

State-owned PetroChina launched a store for one of its provincial operations on Alibaba’s Tmall, the e-commerce giant's business-to-consumer platform, on Tuesday as the cooperation between internet giants and energy industries in China continues.

Online shoppers can now buy discounted fuel cards for use at 550 petrol stations in central China’s Hunan province. They can also find the best time to refuel by checking real-time traffic reports on Tmall, China's biggest oil producer said.

PetroChina is something of a late entrant to China’s digital parallel universe, with rival oil refiner Sinopec launching a webite selling fuel cards online back in February 2014.

The oil and gas company's reluctance to set up shop online was explained earlier this year by insiders who claimed it did not want to share its valuable “big data” on sales volume, customer information and oil prices with future e-commerce partners, the Beijing Times reported.

Yet no major corporation can fight the tide for long in China. With Premier Li Keqiang putting forward his much-vaunted “internet plus” strategy this year, the oil giant had little choice but to come on board and join the push for better integration of internet technology and traditional manufacturing.

PetroChina also announced a strategic cooperation in June with Chinese internet giant Tencent, which runs WeChat and QQ, the most popular mobile chatting tools on the mainland. 

Under the deal, Tencent will help the petrol tycoon in such areas as online payment, internet finance, its online-to-offline businesses, and big data.

However, this is another area in which it is lagging behind its rival. Sinopec’s cooperation with Tencent started a year ago and includes online payment, O2O businesses and location-based services. It inked a similar deal with Alibaba this April.

PetroChina and Sinopec are at the top of their field in China. They rank eighth and 24th, respectively, in Forbes’ list of the world’s biggest public companies. Alibaba and Tencent are China’s leading internet giants.

PetroChina’s store on Tmall is now selling eight kinds of fuel cards priced from 100 yuan (US$15.60) to 400 yuan. As of 8pm Tuesday it had sold nearly 240.

The promotion will soon expand to other Chinese provinces including Shandong on the eastern coast and Chongqing and Sichuan in the west of the country, China’s Securities Daily reported.

Last month, Challenge Group became the first Chinese oil and gas company to set up an online store with Alibaba, but it only operates in remote Yunnan province on the Vietnamese border.