In 1999, towards the end of the dot.com frenzy, a group of 18 people led by Jack Ma started Alibaba in a small apartment in Hangzhou, China. Nineteen years after its inception, this wholesale online marketplace is now the world’s largest e commerce platform, running on par with the likes of Google, Amazon and PayPal! What makes Alibaba’s journey to success so inspiring is how the e commerce platform reached to the top in less than two decades!
Jack Ma learnt of the internet when he went to the United States in the early 1990s. Unlike the United States, China still had not embraced the internet revolution. When Jack Ma returned, he decided to tap into the uncharted waters of the world wide web with the idea that was Alibaba. With an initial investment of $ 5 million and 17 co founders, Jack Ma launched Alibaba’s online retail platform!
The launch of Alibaba’s online retail platforms – Alibaba.com (B2B) and 1688.com (B2C) – was fortunately timed; the consumer internet boom had only just arrived in China and the local market was not as direly affected by the dot-com crash as its American counterpart. Other future e commerce markets such as India had barely even begun exploring the sector.
With a funding of $ 21 billion from SoftBank, the 21st century began on a very positive note for this steadily rising e commerce platform. Post this investment, the money kept pouring in! A year after this influx of cash, Alibaba launched Taobao.com, the Chinese version of eBay! Looking at the positive response received, Jack Ma ventured into other areas like an instant messaging tool called Aliwangwang and third party online payments platform Alipay. These three businesses would eventually evolve into the ‘iron triangle’ of e commerce, logistics, and finance upon which the Alibaba Group of today is built.
Having secured a funding of $ 25 billion, Alibaba was declared the largest and the most profitable e commerce platform in the world by the year 2016. With a market value of $ 231 billion, there was no stopping this company! One of the major reasons for this stupendous growth structure has been credited to the informal employee beneficial policy at Alibaba. The conglomerate has also been very active in shaping and bolstering China’s entrepreneur ecosystem while launching several projects to better China’s rural areas. In 2010, Alibaba announced that it would contribute 0.3 percent of its annual revenue to environmental awareness and conservation efforts around the world – resulting in a $ 4.71 billion turnover. The firm has also set up an independently funded group called the Alibaba Foundation, that tackles social issues. From being a lost and broke boy in China to being a massive success overnight, Jack Ma has truly come a long way!