Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group is growing its business in Australia, including launching a new base Down Under as the company continues to expand its footprint overseas.
Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma today presided at an opening ceremony for a new office in Melbourne that will serve as headquarters for Alibaba’s operations in Australia and New Zealand.
“With a local office and expert team, Alibaba Group will help Australian and New Zealand businesses share their world-famous products with billions of customers around the world,” Ma said in a statement.
Watch how Alibaba connects businesses Down Under with China, home of the world’s most sought after consumer.
The Melbourne office is led by ANZ Managing Director Maggie Zhou, a 17-year veteran of the company who most recently served as deputy general manager of cross-border B2C shopping site Tmall Global. Zhou and her team will support the 1,300 Australian and 400 New Zealand businesses selling on Tmall and Tmall Global, while also working to bring new merchants onto the platforms.
“A physical Alibaba headquarters is a key step in ensuring Australian businesses have the support and information they need to succeed in China and the rest of the world,” Zhou said in a statement.
Alibaba emphasized that it wanted to deliver more than just e-commerce services to Australian businesses and consumers. The goal is to “to build the entire operating infrastructure needed to enable local businesses to expand globally,” Zhou said, including cloud computing, online payments and logistics.
Last year, Alibaba Cloud—Alibaba Group’s cloud-computing arm—opened a data center in Sydney, and already more than 1,000 bricks-and-mortar stores across Australia and New Zealand accept Alipay, the e-wallet app owned by Alibaba affiliated company Ant Financial. Further expansion in these areas, as well as travel and digital entertainment, are planned for Australia and New Zealand, Zhou said. Alibaba’s international B2B website has been operating in Australia since 1999.
The Melbourne announcement was part of a larger tour of Victoria and New South Wales by Ma over the past two days. On Friday, he met with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Sydney to discuss his proposal for an e-World Trade Platform, which Ma wants to establish to give small and medium enterprises greater access to the global economy via the internet. Ma has pushed for the establishment of the eWTP for the better part of a year, earning it special mention in the official communiqué of the Group of 20 Nations following its meeting in Alibaba’s hometown of Hangzhou, China, last September. Turnbull visited Alibaba’s headquarters at that time as well.
Also on Friday, Ma donated $20 million through his Jack Ma Foundation to the University of Newcastle for a new scholarship program. The money will support disadvantaged students at the school, particularly those with a demonstrated commitment to cross-cultural understanding and social justice, the university said in a release. Ma’s connection with Newcastle goes back 37 years to when he met a local family, the Morleys, during their first trip to Hangzhou. Ken Morley, the patriarch of the family, served as a mentor to Jack until his death in 2004. Ken’s son, David, spoke at the endowment ceremony for the new scholarship fund, The Ma & Morley Scholarship Program, on Friday.
Watch this story of the 37-year friendship between Alibaba Group’s Jack Ma and the Morley family of Australia, and how that led to the largest donation in the University of Newcastle’s history.
“Dad would be extremely proud of Jack’s commitment to making a difference to students in our hometown, and so touched that their close friendship has led to this program, which will transform the futures of hundreds of University of Newcastle students, to hopefully do good things in the world,” Morley said in a statement.
In a separate development, Alibaba stepped up its partnership with Australia Post, signing a memorandum of understanding that will bring the state-run logistics company to Southeast Asia’s e-commerce market through Alibaba-owned Lazada Group. Pilot online stores are planned for Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia for later this year. The MOU also states that Australia Post will work with Alibaba’s logistics arm, Cainiao Network, to improve data integration and develop a co-branded, cross-border delivery service for Australian outbound parcels destined for China.
In a statement, Australia Post Chairman John Stanhope said, “Our enduring relationship with Alibaba will allow local Australian businesses to access the biggest online marketplace in the world.”
The two companies first partnered in 2014 when Australia Post set up a storefront on Tmall Global that connected Australian SMEs with Chinese consumers. Australia Post then provided the logistics necessary to get the orders to China.