Alibaba has risen to prominence as the leader of China’s ecommerce market, but it has big ambitions to even beat Google’s Android in the mobile operating system space.
The company outed key pieces of its strategy at its annual Alifest conference over the weekend. One significant data point to come out of the conference was the estimate that transactions on Alibaba platforms, which were reorganized in July, will likely surpass both Amazon and eBay in annual online sales.
“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,” Chief Strategy Officer Zeng Ming told Reuters.
Over the next five to seven years, Alibaba projects total sales to reach 3 trillion RMB ($473 billion).
The event also brought together thousands of “netrepreneurs” and small business owners to discuss doing business on Alibaba’s sites. CEO Jack Ma outlined the future of the company for them. According to Tech in Asia, he promised to build a better platform for merchants, to provide small-business loans to help entrepreneurs get started and provide useful real-time data.
Ma wrapped up the conference with a sobering talk that called attention to the “deep and complex changes” that both the Chinese and global economies are experiencing. He said the past nine years have been “very easy”, but things will get harder.
“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.”
Perhaps the most interesting comments to come out of this year’s Alifest were from The Wall Street Journal’s interview with Zeng. Alibaba’s CSO highlighted the company’s goal to rival Android with its Linux-based Aliyun operating system, which was announced last summer.
“We want to be as strong as Android in China,” he said. “We have quite a few [new handset partners] lined up.”
Alibaba has already partnered with K-Touch and Haier for Aliyun, and it expects to have five handset makers on board by the end of 2012.
Zeng believes that his company has a shot at beating Android because Google services like search, maps and email are limited, if not blocked, in China. “Android is not able to provide good user experience in the Chinese market…. but we can,” he said.
If it intends to catch Android, Aliyun has its work cut out for it. Recent figures from Analysys estimate Google’s mobile OS captured 83 percent of the smartphone market last quarter. Aliyun also faces competition from domestic rivals like Baidu and Tencent, which have developed their platforms.
Image credit: Alibaba