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在线翻译:
szdaily -> Opinion -> 
Small is the new big
    2015-01-26  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

    Wu Guangqiang

    jw368@163.com

    MOST businesspeople love talking about big things: big ideas, big plans, big goals and, most importantly, big money. MBA courses lure millions of talented people with their complicated and grand “business models” coupled with bright career prospects for MBA degree holders.

    That’s why when Jack Ma challenged e-Bay’s overwhelming dominance in Chinese B2C market back in the early 2000s with Taobao’s “unorthodox” strategy of free use. Margaret Cushing Whitman, eBay’s then-CEO, a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Business School, reacted instinctively with, “Free is not a business model, and Taobao can’t hold out much longer.” At this, Ma smiled and said, “Fine, eBay is finished in China, and Taobao will be the only player.” So it was the case.

    To Whitman and many other businesspeople, the new David-beating-Goliath story may be perceived as another case of successful marketing strategies, but to Ma, it is the result of the clash between two different philosophies. While most businesspersons argue that business is business, profit being the most urgent and ultimate goal, Ma thinks that the most important aspect of business is to create an “ecosystem” that will help millions of small individuals prosper.

    In an interview with China Central Television, Ma described his perception of the business world in natural terms — the dominant force in a forest is not predators like lions and tigers, but microorganisms in the soil, which, though invisible, determine what sort of grass will grow, which, in turn, determines what animals can eat there and eventually determines the fate of all of the animals in the food chain.

    Ma firmly believes that the same is true of the business world. Only by fostering tens of millions of individual entrepreneurs or small enterprises, can a dynamic and sustainable business ecosystem form, and as a result, the majority of small players will be beneficiaries of the system, and eventually, businesses that promote this healthy system will be amply rewarded.

    Ma, leading his Alibaba fleet, has been practicing this idea. Taobao, as the world’s first, and so far the only, successful C2C transaction platform, was launched to enable every individual to do small business online.

    To make it easier for small customers on Taobao and Tmall to pay for what they buy online with reliable security, Ma introduced Alipay, which in many ways revolutionized China’s financial practices. Large banks’ indifference to small customers and inertia in innovation met with challenges.

    Yu’ebao, a currency market fund co-launched by Alibaba and a fund house, was another pro-small-customer product, which has brought about more changes to China’s financial system.

    Alibaba has not stopped their progress. To help online small businesses get badly needed loans, which was virtually impossible with big banks, Alibaba launched a new product last October: Ant Financial. Supported by Alibaba’s advanced technology in cloud computing and big data, Ant Financial integrates Alibaba’s existing financial spin-offs to create a mobile payment system to lend money to small borrowers.

    The owner of a small online shop explained why Ant Financial matters for him. Small businesses like his always need bank loans, but conventional banks turn their backs on them for many reasons. For one, banks can’t bear the high costs of credit investigations and the risks of lending money to small businesses.

    But this is not a problem for Ant Financial because the complete records of every shop in Alibaba’s database can help the lender see if the borrower is financially sound and has a good credit reputation. Ant Financial has also begun to cooperate with many banks by sharing its huge data of customer credit information so that the banks can provide small businesses with financial aid.

    

    Alibaba is also helping rural residents get rich by connecting them to the Internet. That is a huge potential goldmine given the country’s vast countryside.

    The idea of serving the small is turning from a trickle into a torrent. Premier Li Keqiang’s visit on Jan. 4 to WeBank, a venture between Tencent, a Shenzhen-based e-business giant, and other financial companies, supports this new trend. WeBank is an Internet-based bank providing small loans to individuals and small enterprises without property guarantee.

    (The author is an English tutor and freelance writer.)

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