How much do you really know about China? How much do you really know about Alibaba?
Here’s a thought: You don’t have to do business in China to appreciate, understand and capitalize on what is going on there (even if you will never sell there or speak the language). You don’t have to use Alibaba to appreciate, understand and capitalize on their business model (and thinking) to help your business grow. Recently, Davos hosted the annual World Economic Forum. It’s an event that gets a lot of scrutiny (some fair… some unfair), but there is no doubt that when the business leaders congregate, we get some fascinating conversations to take shape. Below you can watch an incredible interview with Jack Ma. Ma is the founder of Alibaba. The company was founded in 1999 and has a market cap of close to $250 billion dollars. To put that into perspective, Alibaba reported sales of over $14 billion on China’s Singles’ Day in 2015, and in November of last year, the e-commerce giant set Singles Day records by generating close to $18 billion. These numbers are so big that they are – truly – numbing to try and comprehend.
Why does Alibaba matter to you?
Lately, I’ve been playing with media hopping. I, literally, hop media channels (from CNN to Fox News to CBC to BBC, etc…). It has been an enlightening experience. You don’t just hear how different sides have different angles on the same story, you wind up learning stories (that do, in fact, have partisan slants) that are not heard on the other media outlets, in other countries and beyond. All stories (from all sides) are created (in text, images, audio and video) to sell their own macro-perspective/leanings. For those who do not study, understand and create media, it can seem like nothing is happening at all. For those who are more media literate, the slanting and language used is fascinating. Alibaba is similar… but it’s not. Ma has his own perspective on globalization (versus populist thinking). His perspective on what the US chooses to do in business (and the results of that effort) paint a very different narrative than the one most of know in North America, because he is Chinese. I was struck by how well-known narratives on business and economics here – where we live – are largely driven by our geography and the leaders in those regions.
There is no right or wrong, but there is perspective.
It’s easy to look at any business outcome and discuss the winners and losers. What we often don’t do, is look to others (those who are not like us) to get their perspective. Is Alibaba just like Amazon? Not even close. Ma says that Alibaba is a data company, not an e-commerce one. You may feel that it is not, but watch, listen and learn from Ma, as he discusses how very different they are… and why both models should be embraced and leveraged. We often think that we have one course to get things right in business. If you study Alibaba, listen to Jack Ma speak and then think deeply about business models, opportunities and new markets, it becomes abundantly clearer that more perspectives will lead to more opportunities… and many more ways to win in business. This is a very inspiring conversation between Ma and Andrew Ross Sorkin (author of Too Big To Fail, New York Times columnist, co-creator of the hit TV show Billions and more).
Watch, listen and learn… World Economic Forum – Davos 2017 – An Insight, An Idea With Jack Ma.