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Alibaba may enter Indian e-commerce soon, Jack Ma to visit this year

Alibaba’s chairman, Jack Ma, who visited India late last year as part of a Chinese business delegation, is set to return in August or September to raise the company’s presence in the country’s e-commerce market.

Senior Alibaba executives are expected to join Ma during the visit.

The Chinese e-commerce company announced its investment in India’s start-up Paytm last week.

Alibaba’s co-founder Peng Lei is joining the board of Paytm, the country’s largest e-wallet service provider.

Ma, 50, an English teacher before starting Alibaba, was in India in November when he said Alibaba wanted to invest more in the country and was inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s approach.

Unlike Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, who had multiple engagements in India, including meetings with the prime minister, Ma’s trip to India was low-key. Modi was then in Nepal to attend a summit of leaders from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

Sources said Alibaba was looking at investments in small new-age companies and was seeking long-term dividends from India’s growing e-commerce market.

Alibaba made a $ 25-billion Initial Public Offering on the New York Stock Exchange last year.

The investment allocations have not been finalised for India but could run into billions of dollars.

JACK AND THRILL
  • Jack Ma, 50, a former English teacher who founded Alibaba, seems set for sharper India focus this year
  • The soft-spoken founder of the e-commerce firm has been keen on further investment in India after Paytm
  • Further investment in Indian companies could be in line with Alibaba turning self into a global company
  • Ma-led Alibaba, with a gross merchandise volume of $ 296 bn, accounted for 80% of online sales in China, as of September   
  • Ma created history recently with a record one-day sale of over $ 9 bn
  • Ma is also credited with the historical $ 25-bn listing of Alibaba on NYSE
  • Alibaba co-founder Peng Lei is joining Paytm’s board

Japan’s Softbank, a shareholder in Alibaba, has pledged a $ 10-billion investment in India.

Amazon entered the Indian market in 2013 under a marketplace model but Alibaba only has a sourcing business here. Alibaba group websites accounted for 60 per cent of the parcels delivered in China by March 2013 and 80 per cent of that country’s online sales by September 2014.

Indian e-commerce, expected to expand to $ 16 billion by 2016, has seen corporate names such as Ratan Tata and Azim Premji investing in e-commerce companies.

E-commerce in India is still about only one per cent of the Chinese e-commerce.

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