Retail

E-commerce giant Alibaba is opening an Australian office: Why that’s good news for SMEs

Broede Carmody /

Jack Ma

Alibaba founder Jack Ma

E-commerce behemoth Alibaba is opening in Australian office in a bid to work more closely with local SMEs who want to tap into the Chinese retail market.

Alibaba will launch its Australian headquarters later this year, with the office serving as a hub for the company’s Australia and New Zealand operations.

Alibaba Group, often referred to as the ‘Amazon of China’, operates a number of popular online marketplaces, such as Tmall, and payments platform Alipay.

Founded by entrepreneur Jack Ma in 1999, today Alibaba is listed on the US stock exchange and has more than 400 million active users from countries all over the world. The company recorded revenue of close to $16 billion in the 12 months to March 2015.

Maggie Zhou, Alibaba’s managing director for Australia and New Zealand, said in a statement Australia is well-known in China for its high-quality health and baby products.

“These categories are among our top-selling international product categories, and are sought-after by many consumers in China,” Zhou said.

“We are committed to work with Australian merchants to continuously expand the range of product selection to better serve the needs of Chinese consumers.”

Numerous Australian brands are already selling their products through Alibaba’s Tmall, including beauty retailers Adore Beauty and Bellabox.

Frank Granziera, the founder of Sydney-based Olive Oil Skincare Company, told SmartCompany he sells about 15% of his stock through Alibaba site Tmall and believes the company establishing an Australian office is very good news for local retailers.

Olive Oil Skincare turns over more than $1 million and started selling to Chinese consumers on Tmall after Alibaba announced a deal with Australia Post.

“I do think it will help exposing Australian products quite a bit,” Granziera says.

“When you’ve got a company with the persuasive powers of Alibaba along with you, it overcomes a few hurdles [when trying to crack the Chinese market].”

Granziera also points out being on Chinese e-commerce platforms like Tmall isn’t just about the immediate jump in sales.

“It gains you more exposure,” he says.

“What we find is that very often our products are exposed on Alibaba to Chinese consumers, but then you’ll find they talk to their relatives in Australia and their relatives in Australia buy our products too.

“Now we are finding many local enquiries from the local Chinese community.”

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Broede Carmody

Broede Carmody is a former senior SmartCompany reporter. Before this, he was a co-editor of RMIT University's student magazine Catalyst.

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