Alibaba already lays claim to being the largest online retail for the largest single society on the planet. However, CEO Jack Ma knows that in retail, if you’re not growing, you’re ceding market share to competitors who are.
The Indian English-language paper The Hindu reported that the Chinese online retail plans to more than double the number of Indian users during the next several years through a combination of direct tactics. Alongside signing 5 million Indian businesses onto Alibaba’s listings index, the company plans on focusing on expanding its on-the-ground efforts among consumers as well.
"India is a very important market for us,” Timothy Leung, head of global business development, told The Hindu. “It is the second largest for us after China. SMEs are an important contributor to any economy and the same is the case with India… In the next few years, we hope to have 10 million businesses from India on our platform.”
Rather than simply shifting Indian small and medium sized businesses onto its own platform, Leung explained that Alibaba will be launching a service known by the catchy moniker, SMILE (Small and Medium Industries Leveraging Export), to assist Indian startups in acquiring capital, logistics assistance and other resources normally available to entrepreneurs in other countries. Several Indian banks, such as Kotak Mahindra Bank and Mypacco, have already signed onto the SMILE program, which Leung and Alibaba hope can convince reluctant Indian SMEs to give Alibaba listings a fair shake.
"By offering combined trading solutions to Indian SMEs, SMILE hopes to make cross-border trading easier, helping over 10 million SMEs in India explore global trading opportunities in a more cost-effect way,” Leung told the paper.
Capturing even a fraction of India’s massive consumer population is a no-brainer for Alibaba, but executing that feat is easier said than done.