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China’s Alibaba wants to be bigger than Android

You can’t really accuse China’s tech and online giants of being short on ambition. Not when a company like Alibaba, already likely to pass Amazon and eBay in sales this year, says it wants to beat Android in China.

Stuart Thomas: Senior Reporter
Stuart Thomas joined the Burn Media team in 2011 while finishing off an MA in South African Literature. Eager to prove his geek credentials, he allowed himself... More

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At the company’s annual Alifest conference over the weekend it revealed that transactions on its recently reorganised ecommerce platforms are set to triple this year, hitting the 3 trillion RMB ($473 billion), which will more than likely see it pass its chief Western rivals Amazon and eBay.

“From [Amazon and eBay’s] annual reports we did a rough calculation and we were similar last year but we are growing faster than them this year, so this year we are probably larger than them,” the company’s chief strategy officer Zeng Ming told Reuters.

According to Tech in Asia, CEO Jack Ma promised that the platform will continue to evolve especially when it comes to supporting small-time netrepreneurs.

He also said that the company would start providing loans to small and medium-sized businesses to get them going on Alibaba. So far, it’s already backed over 15 000 businesses with an average of 47 000 RMB (US$7 400) a loan. Ma says the company isn’t going to replicate the mistakes banks have made in the past when it comes to giving out loans either. This is all about making money:

Making money is ethical. And a business that isn’t making money is regretful. You might as well do a social enterprise! […] We make money because we want to serve more people in the future.

Ma cautioned however that the state of the global economy would mean that things would not be as easy for the company as they had been over the past nine years:

The world economy will become worse and worse… we will not repeat the glories of yesterday,” he said. “Next year, we need new ideas, new innovations. Over the last nine years, China has changed, netrepreneurs have changed… but now we need to find a new path.

None of that however is clouding Alibaba’s ambition. Perhaps the biggest indicator of this is the fact that the company wants to beat Android in China with its own mobile operating system Aliyun.

“We want to be as strong as Android in China,” Zeng told the Wall Street Journal. “We have quite a few [new handset partners] lined up.” Those partners include K-Touch and Haier, with an additional five reportedly set come on board by the end of the year.

Despite Android’s powerful position in the country, Alibaba thinks it can beat Google’s OS.

“Android is not able to provide good user experience in the Chinese market…. but we can,” said Zeng.