Alibaba opens office in Malaysia, its first in Southeast Asia
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Alibaba opens office in Malaysia, its first in Southeast Asia

ALIBABA Group executive chairman Jack Ma this week launched the company’s first office Southeast Asian in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The national office for the Chinese online retailing giant marks a new chapter in the company’s deepening strategic cooperation with Malaysia, and is the first eWTP hub outside of China.

“Alibaba’s focus is on three areas when we partner with Malaysia as well as other countries – to digitise our local partners and empower small businesses and young people to go global.”

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“Over the past 30 years, only large corporations have benefited from globalisation. Imagine if we can support 60 million small business around the world; this is Alibaba’s vision of an inclusive and sustainable economy,” Ma told an audience in Kuala Lumpur.

The opening of the Malaysian office is part of Alibaba’s continued efforts to bolster the technology capability of Malaysian SMEs and young entrepreneurs, provide support and platforms to assist them to drive exports and to offer extensive training opportunities to help them take full advantage of digital innovations and trade opportunities.

“Working closely with the Malaysian government, we will support and empower as many small businesses and young people as possible to use technology to become local kings and benefit from globalisation.”

“This is the beginning of our story in Malaysia and I think Alibaba’s story will be long and we will make this story together,” Ma added.

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A man stands near the logo of Alibaba Group at the company’s newly-launched office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia June 18, 2018. Source: Reuters/Lai Seng Sin

China is shifting from exporting to importing

In his speech, Ma said Alibaba will be putting effort into promoting Malaysian products on the platform.

“China needs to import more things,” Ma told the audience.

To mark the occasion of the new Malaysian office, Alibaba will hold a “Malaysia Week” from July 6th to July 12th, in which an array of Malaysian products will be on offer, from durian to its best tourist destinations.

The online promotion is part of Alibaba’s aims to raise the profiles of Malaysian products to Chinese consumers.

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“The Malaysia Week symbolises that we would like to introduce more Malaysian products to Chinese consumers, and this is the first time we spent one week to promote one country,” Ma explained. “We want every Chinese consumer to understand more about Malaysia and Malaysian products.”

Last year, over 160 million Chinese citizens went abroad. Ma told the audience how he hopes the “Malaysian week” will attract more tourism to Malaysia, and compared it to the 11:11 Single’s Day shopping festival.

“We hope to continue to do Malaysia week for ten years. We are not only helping Malaysia small businesses export to China, but we will bring a lot of Chinese tourism here … which is a good thing or bad thing, I don’t know,” Ma joked.

Ma meets Mahathir

During the opening ceremony, the Chinese billionaire also discussed his meeting with Malaysia’s new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad earlier that morning.

Ma described it as a “fantastic and great meeting”, putting to rest rumors that Malaysia’s recent government revamp would undo Alibaba’s e-commerce investments.Prior to being elected, Mahathir pledged to scrutinise Malaysia’s current ventures with China, believing that they would not benefit the country.

But all seemed well between Ma and Mahathir after their Monday morning meeting. Ma even told the audience how his inspiration for Alibaba Malaysia stemmed from the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) implemented by Mahathir during his first stint as PM to promote high technology enterprises.

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“He [Mahathir] is a legend. 93 years old but he has such a great vision and knowledge of technology. After talking to him, I should read more books,” Ma said.

“We share a lot of similarities. We believe in the internet. We believe in supporting and empowering the young, poor and rural folks.”

So, while the Alibaba-Malaysia partnership may have been a match made under the previous government, it seems that the transformation of Malaysia’s digital landscape is going full-speed ahead.

A version of this article originally appeared on our sister website Tech Wire Asia.