Ant Financial, a division of China’s eCommerce giant Alibaba, has launched a three-year strategy to make its Alipay mobile app platform available to 40 million service providers so they can digitize their offerings, Alipay said in a press release on Tuesday (March 10).
Alipay, the biggest payment platform worldwide, is aiming to solidify its position in China. Founded in 2004, the platform transformed from “inclusive financial services” to a digital network that enables users to go digital.
“The service sector in China is still in the nascent stages of digital transformation, and that means it has huge untapped potential,” said Simon Hu, chief executive officer at Ant Financial. “Amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, we have also seen how digital technology can be used to help service providers become more agile and respond effectively to the fast-changing market environment.”
“Building a one-stop digital lifestyle platform not only creates immense value for our users – it will also play an essential role in accelerating the digital transformation of the service industry and unlocking more growth opportunities,” Simon added.
In response to the coronavirus, Alipay established a program that motivates developers to create mini-programs that can assist people who are working from home. Over 1,200 developers jumped on board and devised 181 mini-programs with “contactless” solutions across China. Among the mini-programs are “grocery deliveries, legal and medical advice, logistics, and public services.”
Statistics from the China Internet Network Information Center indicate that 99.1 percent of China’s internet users tapped mobile devices to access the web in 2019. In 2007, less than a quarter of residents used mobile. Consumer demand for digitized services has been expanding rapidly.
“Since the very beginning, Alipay’s success has always depended on the success of our partners, and that is why we believe the only way to best serve consumers is to open up our platform further, so service providers can better tap into consumer demands,” Simon said.
Ant Financial is in discussions with banks to resurrect plans for an initial public offering (IPO) that was shelved over a year ago.
The IPO stalled due to regulatory and profitability issues. The Chinese financial services company — spun off from Alibaba, which has a 33 percent stake — was last valued at $150 billion in a 2018 fundraising round. Ant became the world’s most valuable unicorn in July 2019.