Beijing: Alibaba's founder Jack Ma today warned that the e-commerce giant that made waves across the world in 2014 winning the eye popping record IPO of USD 25.1 billion, faced increased risks in 2015 and the tasks ahead “will be rather difficult”.
Ma, the executive chairman of the Alibaba group, said the company faced more pressures due to the limelight it received following its big show last year by winning the biggest initial public offer, at the New York Stock Exchange and the success it received in Chinese markets.
The middle school English teacher-turned-businessman told the state-run CCTV that Alibaba is now in deep waters since whichever sector the company sets foot in, there would be tough obstacles from “groups with vested interests”.
“In the past, no one was optimistic about us; but we knew we were a lot better than what people thought. By contrast, now people think that we are omnipotent, very capable, very rich, and we can succeed in whatever we do. This is very dangerous for us,” Ma said.
Alibaba set two major milestones in 2014. First, its IPO on the NYSE broke the record as the largest in the US history.
Second, on November 11, the so-called Singles' Day in China, its daily business turnover reached 57.1 billion yuan (USD 9.16 billion), setting a new record for online retail sales.
Buoyed by it success, Ma recently visited India and promised to invest more in Indian markets to expand his business network.
In his interview, Ma said that Alibaba is not as powerful as people think, and in doing business that is unprecedented in China — such as e-commerce and online banking — obstacles come naturally.
He said his new title of the “richest man in China” does not mean he is capable of everything and that the media has been exaggerating his mistakes while taking for granted whatever he has done right.
The inability to screen out fake goods on Taobao, Alibaba's P2P e-commerce platform, is among the most frequent criticisms Ma receives.
But the nature of Taobao, (meaning Takeaway in Chinese) which does not sell anything but is only a bridge between the buyer and the seller, means eliminating all fake goods would not be really possible.
Taobao is already able to promptly lock down on such a shop, but has to rely on the police and other law enforcement departments, to bust fake goods sellers, Ma said.
Alibaba's potential, according to Ma, lies in China's vast rural regions.
Figures show that Taobao has attracted more than 600 million users over 10 years of development, half of which are active users. Educated people, young people and urban dwellers have been among those prone to shopping online.
Others, mostly people living in rural areas offer huge potential for the company and the Internet is a perfect way to connect those people.
“People in rural areas already started using cell phones when they didn't really know about computers. If e-commerce could move into rural areas, we could make a huge contribution to the country's economy,” Ma said.