By Ma. Cristina C. Arayata
MANILA, Nov. 18 (PNA) — Do you shop online? Have you heard about Alibaba (Alibaba Group Holding Limited), the Chinese e-commerce company that provides consumer-to-consumer, business-to-consumer and business-to-business sales services online?
Would you believe that its founder and executive chairman, Jack Ma, used to be naive about computers? In fact, during the 2015 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit held in Manila on Wednesday, he revealed that at this point in time, the only things he know in computer are to receive and send emails, browse, and watch videos.
“Honestly, I didn’t expect I’d be speaking in front of so many wonderful CEOs (chief executive officers) and business leaders,” he uttered.
He shared that 16 years ago at his apartment, he talked to 17 colleagues and discussed about using the internet in small businesses around the globe.
“I talked to them about our vision, how the internet is going to change,” he said.
Ma believed that if they can’t be successful, then 80 percent of Chinese people cannot be successful. Citing that 18 of them were people who had no money and resources, he also noted they knew nothing about technology.
“Among the 18 of us, there were only two who knew something about computers. The other 16 knew nothing,” he revealed.
The 51-year-old Alibaba chairman believed that 80 percent of people around the world, like him, will love technology. He noticed, however, that some of them were afraid of technology. “So we have to make sure that internet is simple enough to make someone get what he/she wants in one click,” Ma realized.
That was the beginning.
As Ma was determined to prove their vision, he acknowledged the fact that they were going to compete with whom he considers “educated people.”
He cited that most of them in their team graduated from low level universities, and they decided to compete with graduates from Harvard, Yale, Berkeley.
Instead of losing heart, he emphasized that they were not scared. “We were never scared because we worked as a team. We had a dream. We believed that if we work for it for years, we will make it,” he emphasized.
Armed with determination and a clear vision, 16 years have passed, and Alibaba has been growing fast, according to Ma.
Furthermore, since many people are so into mobile phones these days, he said that about 120 million people, using their mobile phones, are shopping in their website every day.
He also said that last Nov. 11, as China observed the “Singles’ Day” (a festival for those without girlfriends or boyfriends and are proud of it), they had over one billion product listings in the Alibaba website. Ma said the company has earned USD14.5 billion on that day.
It (sales) was something they have not imagined 15 years ago.
The power of technology
With the company’s success, Ma is thinking how technology can be used to influence more people to help more small businesses worldwide.
Alibaba, for instance, has helped 12 million small businesses in China using its platform to sell and communicate with customers online.
If Saint Augustine’s motto is “Si Possunt cur non Ego (If they can, why can’t I?),” Ma seemed to challenge the CEOs, “If China can do it, why the other nations cannot do it?”
Alibaba Group’s founder firmly believes that if the model they used had worked in China, it could also work for other nations.
Speaking in front of CEOs, Ma hinted that technology actually empowers. He used the name Alibaba inspired by the folk tale character Ali Baba in “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.”
He then explained that Ali Baba’s famous line “open sesame” indicates that the treasure is open for the benefit of the people.
Similarly, he has opened things to share online. “Great things are online. How can you use these treasures and let the whole world benefit from it?” he continued.
As he was talking about technology, he noted that about 1.5 billion people belong to the “internet generation,” or those born after 1980.
Ma noticed that this generation is really different from his grandfather. Aside from citing that his grandfather was getting the news from newspapers while the “internet generation” gets it from television and through online, he remarked that “these young people make businesses based on technology and innovation.”
Ten years ago, meanwhile, when he was trying to raise money for Alibaba, he said that investors doubted since they thought China isn’t good in e-commerce, that it didn’t had the logistics, and that its infrastructure was very poor.
But he said that through the internet, they were able to make infrastructure really work and sophisticated.
True enough, technology makes something and someone go a long way. However, learning your purpose and being a blessing to others will take you farther. (PNA)