Ma, founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group, said that it currently has 300m people transacting through its web portals, about a third of them chalking up 60m transactions daily, with 10m small businesses, mostly within China.
“I’ve been thinking how we can make Alibaba a global platform for small businesses around the world,” he said. “My vision is, if we can help a small business in Norway sell things to Argentina, and Argentina consumers can buy things online from Switzerland, we can build up an e-WTO. WTO is great but last century. Today, the internet can help small business sell things across the oceans. I hope we can serve 2bn consumers and help 10m small businesses outside China.”
Ma said he would like to see Alibaba exceeding Walmart in sales in ten years’ time. Along with his grand vision for his group, Ma also told participants that success comes with the heavy responsibility of ensuring that he and his team live up to the public trust bestowed on them. “For e-commerce, the most important thing is trust,” he said.
He added that his desire to succeed stems from his wish to be an inspiration to young people in China. “If we can be successful, 80 per cent of young people in China can be successful,” he said, adding that they, like him, do not have the benefit of inherited wealth.
Ma also explained why early rejections in his life only strengthened his resolve to succeed. “I went to KFC; 24 people went for the interview, 23 got accepted. I was the only one rejected,” he said. Harvard University also snubbed him ten times. “I told myself, some day I will go there to teach.”
Ma said Hollywood movies have been one of the great inspirations in his life, in particular, the character of Forrest Gump. “I love Forrest Gump,” he said. “A simple guy – [but he] never gives up.”
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