In the second week of my internship, I mentioned to my boss that I was very interested in a job or visiting Alibaba. By the end of the week my boss had a surprise for me; he knew somebody in Alibaba and arranged that I could have a small visit to the company. Alibaba itself is located in the Zhejiang Province in Hangzhou in the Binjiang District. For those who are not familiar with the company Alibaba is best known outside China for its the biggest IPO so far noted. But what’s more interesting is the way the company reached this IPO. In the Peoples Republic of China Alibaba is best known for its website Taobao and Tmall, the best way to describe it is as a mix of Ebay and Amazon. Everyone knows it and purchases lots of items on it, from household appliances, Food to Cars and so on. Alibaba has also got many other websites and is invested in many other Companies/Websites. The investments I find most interesting are Youku, Meizu and Ouya, Lyft more about those later.
Jack Ma the founder of Alibaba has been influenced by many in San Francisco and in the Silicon Valley area. You can clearly see this when visiting the company that it has similar styles to Google and VMware campus.
The visit to the company itself.
Beware you need an invite to be able to go to the company, it’s not accessible anymore for any visitors.
The Company is located in the Binjiang district and is known among the locals as Taobao city.
When entering through the main gate we were friendly greeted by our contact. She is a young ambitious woman who is responsible for the Customer Relationships. Unfortunately we were not able to go into the company itself but had a small introduction around the campus and the visitor center. The building style has a similar style like the ones in silicon valley. Especially like Google many aspects are the recognizable, like for example instead of the Google Bikes they have they Ali Bikes which can transport you easily at the campus. The Campus has a small supermarket, Starbucks, Gym.
When arriving in the main visitor hall the first thing that you notice is the Orange Super Car. Similarity to a Lamborghini can’t be ignored. The story goes that all items of the car had been bought separately on Taobao and then were made into this car.
Alibaba’s Future expansion
I wondered now Alibaba has almost dominated the whole e-commerce of China what their plans for the future are. Are they interested in the Western Markets like Europe, America and so on?
According to my host for the moment there is no interest in Europe. The most valuable markets after China are Russia and America.
I think the idea of a platform like Taobao would not work so easily in Europe. I don’t think Europeans would be preparing to talk to a buyer each time the buy something online. We buy online to save time and review our items before. But in China, things are different you cannot judge the quality so easily and thousands of people sell you the same products. Even prices are not the same for everyone and are negotiable. I think the idea of this to most western people would be a nightmare just the fact that you paid more than somebody else for a product the exact same day.