Alibaba CEO ready to ride Internet's 'third wave'

14 Sep 2006
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One of Jack Ma's companies has 27 million registered users, but the Alibaba.com chief executive officer can only think of the people not using his site.

'We want to show how big the China market is,' Ma said in an interview in Hangzhou, where Alibaba is headquartered.

The group's auction site, Taobao.com, claims 27 million registered users and about 70 percent of China's consumer auction market. 'I want the Taobao team to focus on getting more and more people and more and more transactions,' Ma said, adding that '110 million [Chinese Internet] users are not using the site.'

To encourage use, Ma announced in 2005 that Taobao would not charge for transactions or listings.

'Last year we said three years. Maybe next year we'll think about starting to charge,' he said. He also projected that the auction company will account for 30 percent of Alibaba's revenue by 2010.

Ma, whose Chinese name is Ma Yun, said he still has no timetable for the company to go public.

'It is a golden time for Alibaba to get ready for the next wave of e-commerce in China.'

He sees that next wave as the large-scale adoption of e-commerce by small and medium-sized businesses. SMBs will be 'the engine for the next five to 10 years of the Chinese economy,' he said.

E-commerce is the Internet's 'third wave' in China, Ma said, having been preceded by revenue generated from short messaging service (SMS), which provided a way for Web portals to collect subscription fees, and then from online and mobile gaming.

There is no rush for Alibaba to go public, Ma said.

'We spent $750 million to buy out all the small investors and let our long-time employees cash out. This is why it's not urgent for us to go public,' he said, referring to money gained from a $1 billion investment in Alibaba last year by Yahoo Inc., which took a 40 percent stake in the company and handed over control of its China unit as part of the deal.

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