Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has pledged to support Australian and New Zealand SMEs with the opening of its Melbourne headquarters.
The offices opened on Saturday with founder and executive chairman Jack Ma revealing Alibaba’s operations across ANZ will continue to be headed up by Maggie Zhou.
Zhou has been representing Alibaba in Australia for nine months, since the company announced it would establish an Australian base. Zhou said in a statement that having a physical presence in Australia would make it easier for local businesses to sell into China.
“A physical Alibaba headquarters is a key step in ensuring Australian businesses have the support and information they need to succeed in China and the rest of the world,” Zhou said.
“Longer term, Alibaba Group’s vision for the ANZ region is to build the entire operating infrastructure needed to enable local businesses to expand globally.”
Alibaba owns online marketplace and eBay competitor TMall and e-commerce website Aliexpress, along with many other platforms. In 2016, Australia was ranked fifth for selling products via TMall.
Fairfax reports the Victorian government provided Alibaba with a number of “incentives” to establish its headquarters in Melbourne. Speaking at the launch event, Ma said he would use funds from the state government to support local businesses.
“The government giving money to us, supporting our business, we should be using this money for small business here, training people here,” Ma said reports Fairfax.
“In China, they say if a company gets money from the government this is a stupid company and we appreciate the generosity of the friendliness of this government and I promise we will use this money in a better way.”
Ma also met with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull the day after the launch event, with the two sharing a vision of increased cross-border trade to benefit small businesses and entrepreneurs.
“With a local office and expert team, Alibaba Group will help Australian and New Zealand businesses share their world-famous products with billions of customers around the world,” Ma said in a statement.
“Australia will always have a special place in my heart and that’s why I am so pleased to come back to contribute to supporting Australian businesses to create opportunities and jobs in a country that has meant so much for me.”
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and small business minister Philip Dalidakis also attended the launch, and both congratulated Alibaba for its Victorian launch.
“This is great news for Victorian businesses and exporters who will have greater access to one of the world’s biggest markets without having to leave their homes,” Dalidakis said in a release.
Ma to fund $26 million scholarship program
Ma also took the opportunity this weekend to reveal he will personally fund a $US20 million ($AUD26.4 million) scholarship program at the University of Newcastle.
Named the Ma and Morley Scholarship program, the sizeable philanthropic gesture honours Ma’s friendship with Ken Morley, a Newcastle resident who Ma met while Morley was on tour in China.
Morley then became a “highly influential figure” in Ma’s life, and the two remained close friends until Morley’s death in 2004.
“To honour the experience and the special relationship I formed with the Morley family, the Jack Ma Foundation is delighted to announce The Ma & Morley Scholarship Program that will inspire, educate and cultivate tomorrow’s leaders,” Ma said in a release.
“Alibaba was built by young people and we are committed to lifting up and empowering students so they can reach their dreams and ambitions.”
Students will be selected for the program based on their “interest and commitment towards cross-cultural understanding, cooperation and peace; social justice and equity; fairness and ethics in entrepreneurship and industrial relations; and sustainable development, including environment, conservation and renewable energy”.
The program, which will initiate 30 scholarships within its first year, will also support students from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds. At full capacity, the program will support 90 students each year.
This article was originally published on SmartCompany.