Alibaba boss Jack Ma warns of risks

By Chen Boyuan
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, January 5, 2015
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Jack Ma, founder and chairman of Alibaba Group. [File photo]

China's e-commerce platform Alibaba Group is expecting to face increased risks, as the company has "completed the easy tasks," and "the remaining tasks will be rather difficult," warned Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of the group.

Ma shared his insight at a recent interview with China Central Television, during which he said much of the pressure was coming from the limelight his company has received.

The middle school English teacher-turned business man explained that Alibaba is now in deep water since whichever industry the company sets foot in, there would be tough obstacles from "groups with vested interests."

"In the past, no one was optimistic about us; but we knew we were a lot better than what people thought. By contrast, now people think that we are omnipotent, very capable, very rich, and we can succeed in whatever we do. This is very dangerous for us," Ma said.

Alibaba set two major milestones in 2014. First, its IPO on the New York Stock Exchange broke the record as the largest in U.S. history. Second, on Nov. 11, the so-called Singles' Day in China, its daily business turnover reached 57.1 billion yuan (US$9.16 billion), setting a new record for online retail sales.

Ma admitted that Alibaba is not as powerful as people think, and in doing business that is unprecedented in China – such as e-commerce and online banking, obstacles come naturally. He said his new title of " richest man in China" does not mean he is capable of anything.

"You can't use the money to do whatever you want, and you can't solve the troubles that a president or a prime minister find difficult. Therefore, we should stick to our nature," said Ma, who added the media has been exaggerating his mistakes while taking for granted whatever he has done right.

The inability to screen out fake goods on Taobao, Alibaba's P2P e-commerce platform, is among the most frequent criticisms Ma receives. But the nature of Taobao, which does not sell anything but is only a bridge between the buyer and the seller, means eliminating all fake goods would not be really possible.

Ma said Taobao is already able to promptly lock down on such a shop, but has to rely on the police, business administrators, quality watch dogs and other law enforcement departments, to bust fake goods sellers. However, Ma admitted that in many cases, protectionism would lead to Taobao becoming the target, rather than the dishonest businessmen.

Alibaba's potential, according to Ma, lies in China's vast rural regions. Figures show that Taobao has attracted more than 600 million users over 10 years of development, half of which are active users. Educated people, young people and urban dwellers have been among those prone to shopping online during the past decade. Others, mostly people living in rural areas offer huge potential for the company and the Internet is a perfect way to connect those people.

"People in rural areas already started using cell phones when they didn't really know about computers. But today's smartphones can basically replace a computer for many demands. If e-commerce could move into China's rural areas, we could make a huge contribution to the country's economy," Ma said.

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