Davos 2015: China Alibaba founder Jack Ma shows global ambitions

DAVOS, Switzerland (AFP) - Alibaba founder Jack Ma, China's richest person, on Friday expressed ambitions of making his company into a global e-commerce platform serving two billion customers.

The company, which listed on the New York Stock Exchange last year, is estimated to hold over 90 per cent of the Chinese market for consumer-to-consumer transactions through its Taobao platform.

Taobao has more than 800 million product listings and around 500 million registered users, according to the company.

"What I am thinking about: how we can make Alibaba a platform for global small business," Mr Ma told the World Economic Forum.

He described the vision as an e-commerce version of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

"Today, the Internet can help small businesses sell things across the oceans, across nations. And I hope we can serve two billion consumers. We can help ten million small businesses outside China," he said, speaking in English.

In November, Mr Ma said he planned a "global version" of Taobao, allowing buyers and sellers in different countries to connect with each other.

Taobao's foreign efforts to date have focused mainly on overseas Chinese communities but Alibaba has launched a US shopping website, 11 Main.

Alibaba is often described as the Chinese version of eBay. Like the US company, it has its own payments system, called Alipay, though it puts less emphasis on online auctions in favour of instant transactions.

Alibaba bested eBay in China over a decade ago, essentially forcing it to retreat.

Ma recounted a conversation with an executive of US retail giant Walmart, in which he suggested Alibaba could become bigger through the Internet.

"If you want to have 10,000 new customers, you have to build a new warehouse, this and that," he said, referring to the Walmart executive. "For me, two servers."

Mr Ma is China's richest person with a net worth of US$28.5 billion (S$38.2 billion) as of Thursday, according to Bloomberg Billionaires. He vaulted into first place after Alibaba listed on the New York Stock Exchange in September.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.