Jack Ma: E-Commerce Is Like A dessert In The US, Yet The Main Course In China | TMTpost

“This is my philosophy of doing business: Today is difficult, tomorrow is much more difficult, but the day after tomorrow is beautiful, yet most people die tomorrow evening.”

10 min readNov 24, 2015


During a speech at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit held on November 18th in the Phillipines, Alibaba founder Jack Ma shared with the audience the humble beginnings of Alibaba and stressed the importance to help smaller businesses and empowering others. The e-commerce tycoon also shared his insights on the future of world economy and pointed out the trend in the latest technological revolution.

What follows is the full transcript of Jack Ma’s speech, edited by TMTpost:

APEC CEO Summit 2015: Insights from Jack Ma

Good morning everyone,

I am very excited to be back to the APEC. Honestly, I never thought that I would be able to stand here, talking to so many wonderful CEOs and business leaders about my dream.

16 years ago, in my apartment, 18 people sat there and we discussed that we wanted to use the Internet to help small business in the world. And I made a talk to my 17 colleagues about our vision, how Internet is going to change. And I said one thing: if we people can be successful, 80 percent of the Chinese people can be successful, because we are the people without resources, we are the people without money, we are the people without relationships, and we are the people without even knowing the technology.

Among the 18 people, there are only two people who understand something about computers and the other 16 people know nothing — including me. Until today, the only thing I know about a computer is to receive and send e-mails, browse, and watch video. I said 80 percent of people in this world, like me, love technology but we are scared of the technology. So, we have to make sure the Internet is simple enough that everybody just has a down click and then they can get what they want. So, that was the beginning.

And we say, let’s prove it and we will compete with the people who graduated from universities which we believe were the best in the world. These are the people that would change the world, but we’re not well-educated people at that time and most of the 18 people… we graduated from very poor, lower-level universities So, we say we will compete with people from Harvard, from Yale, from Berkley… But we were never scared, beccause we work as a team. We have the dream. We believe that if we work for 15 years, we will make it.

So, 16 years passed. What we have achieved… We’ve been growing fast. Just to give you one example: What we’ve done last Wednesday, the Singles’ Day, November 11 in China is considered the Singles’ Day. People who do not have a boyfriend or girlfriend will say, what are you gonna do? Other people who have boyfriends or girlfriends will advise them to go shopping. We made a day after seven years… it’s very interesting. This year, we sold $14.5 billion. Forty-five million people coming concurrently on the mobile phone. Imagine that today: on a mobile phone, every day, we have 120 million people shopping using mobile phones on our site. The sales alone was something we could not imagine 15 years ago. Of course, I did not buy anything because that day we have more than one billion products listed on the site.

What I’m interested in is how we can use this technology to influence more people, to help more small businesses in the world. If China can do it, why can’t other nations do it?

We have helped 12 million businesses in China, small business using our platform to sell online, to communicate with our customers online. We believe if this model works in China, why can’t it work in other nations?

10 years ago, when I talk to venture capitalists, trying to raise some money for Alibaba. People would say: wow, no! Chinese e-commerce? Forget it, because you don’t have this, you don’t have that, you don’t have credentials. You don’t have a bank, you don’t have logistics. You’re such a country with poor infrastructure. But I tell you one thing, one of the reasons why Chinese e-commerce grew faster than the United States is that the infrastructure of commerce in China was too bad. Because “we don’t have this, we don’t have that”, when Internet came, we made the infrastructure really work, and it’s sophisticated. But in America, because the Wal-Mart… all the retailers are everywhere, so e-commerce is just like a dessert. In China, e-commerce become the main course.

“We have to slow down the sales in the afternoon, otherwise the whole Chinese logistics system would crash”

And this Singles’ Day… We have people from all over 200 countries join this shopping day. And this is almost bigger than the United Nations. And 60 percent of the shoppers were women, and 40 percent are men.

And, by the way, the infrastructure of using e-commerce is so amazing and so complicated that we had to finish 80 percent of transactions per second. That day, we created more than 600 million packages because in the afternoon, we have to slow down the sales, otherwise the whole Chinese logistics system would crash.

This record is not created by Alibaba, it’s created by the small guys, the young people, the small businesses. And I would tell you there are about more than 10 million businesses today in China that try to sell, try to do their business online.

People sitting here, mostly we are from the Fortune 500, we only have 500 companies that are able to be here, but I hope in the next 10, 20 years… the small guys, those people who are very small today, they will be big in the future and they will be the people standing here speaking and most people will listen.

By the way, can I ask: How many people here were born after the 1980s? Good, there are some here. Congratulations! You are the hope of ours. There are about 1.5 billion in this world born after 1980s. This generation is called Internet Generation. They’re different from my grandfather. My grandfather knows the news by the newspaper. He would say “Well, the newspaper said…” So, everything the newspaper said, he believed in it. My grandfather listened to the radio. He would say “Radio said!” Everything the radio said, he believed it. My generation watched TV, and my son’s generation, they grow, they breathe, and everything is based on the internet

So guys, let’s think about this generation, 1.5 billion people. They are different from us. How we can change ourselves to meet their needs? This is the challenge. So, I want that these young people and most of the people who were born in the 1980s, they make the business based on the technology, based on the innovation, based on the things. I think, in the future, we will see more companies like Apple, Alibaba, Amazon, and eBay, and Facebook from those people who were born after 1980s.

“Developing nations failed to benefit enough from globalization”

I remember in 2001 when I first joined the World Economic Forum in Davos. I was first invited to go there to talk about globalization. I was so shocked, because in China I heard that globalization was great. When I arrived there, people were throwing stones… and military police… like, everybody was against globalization. And I say, what happened? Is there something different about the globalization we heard and the globalization they did? I was puzzled,

But I think, in the past 20 years, globalization really helped pump up the global economy, but it helped the big companies, it helped the developed nations. The developing countries, the small guys did not benefit enough from the globalization. So what should we do to help more people, help developing nations, help small guys, young people… because if we do not help, there are more and more disasters coming. How we can make them benefit from globalization.

The reason why we’re choosing Alibaba… People, you know might wonder why you choose such a strange name Alibaba? First, it starts with A, so we always rank at the top… Alibaba. And we have a vision that Alibaba and the 40 thieves, Alibaba open the sesame, for the other people to benefit, to take advantage of the treasury. We think Alibaba means open sesame online. There are so many treasures, great things online. How can we use these kinds of treasures to distribute, let the whole world benefit from it?

Every free trade is the best tool to make people understand each other. Trade is the best thing, since trading is not about the trading of the products, trading is about the culture. It’s about the passion, it’s about innovation and creation. We think whatever country you are, no matter whatever size your company is, trade is a freedom, trade is a human right. Trade should not be used as the tool against the other nations. So we think we should build up a new E-WTO or a WTO 2.0.

During the past 20 years, WTO did for the big companies. In the next 20 years, we should use WTO to support small guys, because if we cannot change it, it will be disaster for everybody.

Small guys are the most innovative companies, because when we had this idea about using internet to help small guys in China 15 years ago, everybody said: No, impossible. We say, well, our job is to make impossible possible, since we don’t have the jobs. Why not do it?

I think if WTO was an agreement between governments, then a real trade treaty should be an agreement of the businesses. The businesses agree, and the government will follow. If the governments disagree on the business treaty because of political reasons, because the governments hate each other, all the businesses go nowhere. That is why we’ve been waiting for the Doha Round for so many, so many years… When I was a boy, I heard about WTO… Now, I’m still waiting for the results.

Let’s work on some solution, which I don’t have a proper name for it. Maybe it should WTO 2.0 or E-WTO. Let’s agree on something that really can help the small guys. Let’s say- imagine today Philippine people can buy online things from Argentina, buy things from Norway, and buy things from Africa. Let’s think about a small business in Africa that can sell things via the Internet. I went to some of the nations, small countries. They have very good tourist gifts, but people there don’t buy it. But online, we find it, it’s cute, I never saw these kinds of gifts from the small countries. So cross the nations would be great.

“The latest technological revolution should be about the release of the brain”

And our suggestion is the country…if you really believe this is good, let’s give $1 million or euros to help the small businesses to sell things to the other nations. Less than one million every year, we should give the duty free. Only giving all kinds of support to making sure the small guys can go across nations. We build the infrastructure on the payment, and we build up the infrastructure of the logistics system.

People may say, it’s so complicated, there are a lot of negotiations among the governments. Let’s do it online first, because today our sales in China this year is $500 billion. It’s almost the same size as a Wal-Mart. And it’s mainly in China. If we had negotiations with all the governments and provinces, this will go nowhere because they will never agree with each other. Because we never negotiate with them, we made this thing happen.

Finally, I wanna say human beings are entering a new world. The free technology… We are the luckiest of people of the world, of the century. First, the technological revolution happened in the UK, took about 50 years. The first 20 years was about technology, and the next 30 years was about implementation. The second technological revolution happened in the United States. The first 20 years was about technology, and the next 30 years was about implementation of the technology. Now, Internet. We’ve just past the first 20 years. The next 30 years is how we can implement this thing into everybody’s life, into every aspect of life. So every technological revolution takes about 50 years.

Think about it. After the first technological revolution, we have the organization called the factory and it caused the First World War. After the second technological revolution, we have the organization called the company, and we have the Second World War. People don’t worry about today, and there are many problems on the internet. We should have the Third World War against poverty, climate change, and the disease.

The first technological revolution released people’s muscle. The second technological revolution released the distance. But we know so little about ourselves, our inside of the heart. I think this technological revolution is about the release of the brain, and this is gonna change a lot… The world is gonna be changed a lot. A lot of women leaders will be there. We have to build up a world that is more transparent, a world that is more inclusive, a world that is more caring for the others, empowering the others. I’m very optimistic about the future. I believe we should trust the young people, believe them, help them and empower them, because we are entering into a world that should be innovative.

There are a lot of problems, but as always, my philosophy of doing business: Today is difficult, tomorrow is much more difficult, but the day after tomorrow is beautiful, yet most people die tomorrow evening. You got a working heart. You’ve got to work with others. You’ve got to trust the future. You should always have the hope. Try to make sure that it’s not in the movie you see Mission Impossible. It’s in the real life you have to make mission possible.

Thank you very, very much.

[The article is published and edited with authorization from the author @TMTpost-Chinese, please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.]

Translated by Levin Feng (Senior Translator at ECHO), working for TMTpost.

(Chinese Version)

Originally published at www.tmtpost.com.




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