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Ma Yun’s Speech at the ECONOMIC CLUB OF NEW YORK on June 9, 2015
By Ma Yun
December 1, 2015


For video click: http://www.24en.com/read/speech/2015-06-16/176280.html

 

I’m so honored. I never expect there are so many people coming here to listen to my talk.

And when I sitting there I feel so important. Thank you, thank you very much.

 

Before my talk I would like to ask how many people here have used Alibaba services. Good, not many. [Laughs]. And how many of you here have never been to China? Never been, never been to China. Good, thank you very much.

 

Well, 20 years ago I came to America. My first trip to America, to Seattle. Before that I learned so much about America, from my books, from my teachers, from my school, and my parents. And I think I know enough about America. But when I came to America I thought totally wrong. America is not what I learned from the books. And in Seattle I found the Internet.

 

And then I came back and tell my friends that I’m going to open a company called Internet. I invited 24 of my friends, had a two-hour discussion. And finally we had a vote. 23 of them against me. “Forget about it. There’s no such kind of network called Internet. Don’t do it.” There’s only one person who said “Jack, I trust you. I don’t know what that is, but if you want to try it, go ahead, try it. Because you’re still young.” At that time I was 30 years old.

 

So I started my business, without knowing anything about computer, without knowing anything about business. I started my first company, my wife and I and a school mate. We borrowed [start] from US $1,000 we start the business. It was so difficult. I called myself like a blind man riding on the back of blind tigers. Jumping around for the past 20 years I survive today. For the first three years life was really bad. I remember I tried to borrow US $3,000 from the banks. It took me three months asking any friends I know to borrow the money.Still failed, coz verybody said “Jack is telling a lie, because there’s no such network called Internet in 1996.”

 

So one day, later 1996, China was connected to the Internet. I invited ten media friends to my apartment. I want to tell them I’m not telling a lie. There is a network called Internet. We waited three hours and a half to see the first – to download the first picture. And people said “Is that thing going to work?” And I say “Yeah, it’ll work, but not today. In ten years it’ll work.” But at least it proved that I was not telling a lie.

 

I remember when we tried to help our small business to sell online. Nobody want to sell because nobody come to buy. So first week we have seven employees, we buy and sell ourselves. The second week somebody start to sell on a website. We buy everything they sell. We have two rooms full of things we bought for New Year’s, [all garbage] for the first two weeks. In order to tell people that it works. It was not easy. Since 1995 to 1999 we failed. We go nowhere, our business, because nothing was ready.

 

In 1999 I invited 18 friends of mine who came to my apartment. We decided to do it again. We call the name alibaba.com. And people say why Alibaba? We believe Internet is a treasure island which opens sesame for small business. And we used Alibaba because it’s easy to spell, easy to remember. And we want to focus on helping small business.

 

Because at that time we see commerce [with the] American e-commerce they focus on helping on big companies, they’re focusing on helping big companies to save the cost. We believed China we don’t have a lot of big companies, we have so many small business, and small business it’s so difficult for them to survive. If we can using Internet as a technology to help small business it’ll be fantastic.

 

So we start to say if America is good at helping big companies, just like America is good at making basketball we should play pingpong in China, we should help the small guys. And we should not helping small guys to save cost, because small business know how to save the cost, but small business should learn how to make money. So our business is focusing helping small business to make money online.

 

And we want to make the company last for 102 years. And people are curious – why 102 years? Because Alibaba was born in 1999, last year we had – last century we had one year, this century 100 years, next century one year. 102 across three centuries. We give a clear goal to any employees. Don’t say we are successful, no matter how much money we raised, no matter how much money we make, no matter how much we have achieved. Don’t forget we want to live 102 years. Now, 16 years passed, we have another 86 years to go. Because in next 86 years, if any time we die we’re never successful. When I heard this club is 108 years old I was surprised and shocked. There’s so much we can learn from that.

 

Well, today nobody believed that Alibaba could survive, because people say “You are [free], you’re tiny” and, you know, and especially when we talk about – when we IPO’d people say “Ah, you are Alibaba, you are e-commerce. You’re like Amazon.” Because in American point of view Amazon probably is the only business model for e-commerce. But no, we are different.

 

The difference between us and Amazon is that we do not buy and sell, but we help small business to buy and sell. We have 10 million small business on our site buy and sell every day. And we do not deliver our packages, although – ourselves, though we have more than 2 million people help us to deliver over 30 million packages per day.

 

We do not own warehouses, but we manage tens and thousands of warehouses for other small, medium sized delivery companies. And we do not own inventories, but we do have more than 350 million buyers. We have more than 120 million buyers coming to shop every day on our site. And also, we sell – our revenue last – our sales last year were US$ 390 billion. And this year, possibly, we are going to be bigger than Walmart globally. And Walmart manage – that size of business have more than 2.3 million people; we grow from 18 people to today 34,000 people.

 

And the difference between Amazon and us the other is Amazon is a shopping center. Because here e-commerce is commerce, in China e-commerce is a lifestyle. Young people, they using e-commerce to exchange ideas, they communicate, they build up the trust, they build up a record. It’s just like Starbucks – you never go to Starbucks to test how wonderful coffee is. It’s a lifestyle. And this is how Internet e-commerce is changing China.

 

And what we felt proud of is not how much things we sell. I said this year we’ll be bigger than Walmart – yes, we are proud. We know in five years we will sell US$ 1 trillion. This is my goal, which we think possibly we will make it. We are proud of that but we are more proud because we create direct [and indirect] job, 14 million jobs for China. And we’ve created jobs in the countryside. We created a lot of jobs for women. Over 51 percent of the power sellers on the Internet are women.

 

So we feel so proud of that. And people say okay, now Alibaba did that. What's your next? What's your future cause you are everywhere. We, 80 percent of the buy and the sell online are created by our company. Our future is that we have to focus on globalizing our business. It's not only sell more things. We want to make, to globalize the infrastructure of eCommerce. Why Internet eCommerce grow so fast in China than in the USA? Because the infrastructure of commerce in China was too bad. Not like here. You have Motors. You have all the shops offline, Walmart, Kmart, everything everywhere. But in China we have nothing nowhere.

 

So eCommerce in the US is a dessert. It's complementary to the main business. But in China it becomes the main course. We created the infrastructure. So we think if we globalize our infrastructure — the payment, the logistics center, the transparent platform all around the world. Helping the small business around the world to sell everywhere. Help the global consumers to buy everywhere. Our vision is in ten years we will help two billion consumers in the world to shop online anywhere in the world. You're shopping online with 72 hours you'll receive the product. And anywhere in China you shop online, you will receive the products within 24 hours. And we think our globalization is still focused on helping small business. And helping them to do business in the most efficient ways. And we think that we will help another ten million business on our eCommerce platform.

 

We will empower them. We'll give them the traffic. We'll give them the payment system. We'll give them the logistics system so they can do business anywhere easily and quickly. And we will help. We will have 40 percent of our business outside China. Today we only have two percent of our business outside China.

 

So people keep on asking, now you are big. You raised that much money. What's your play in America? People say well are you going to come? When are you going to come to invade America? When I going to compete with Amazon? When I going to compete with eBay? Well I would say we show great respect for eBay and Amazon. But I think the opportunity and the, the strategy for us is helping small business in America go to China, sell their products to China.

 

Today in China, the middle class for China is almost the same as the American population. And we think in ten years it will be more than half a billion Chinese people will be middle class. The demanding for middle class, the demanding for good products, good service was so powerful, so strong. And I think China today cannot afford the good products, good service to them. And then next is that China has been focused on exporting in the past 20 years. And I think next ten, ten-twenty years China we should be focusing on importing. Chinese should learn to buy. Chinese should spend the money. Chinese should buy a lot of things from globally. And I think that American small business, American branded products you should use the Internet, go to China.

 

Past 20 years big companies of America is already all over China. But it's the great opportunity for using the eCommerce for small business to go to America. In the past years we have helped a lot of American farmers selling things to China. For example the Seattle cherries, you will never believe that the ambassador, the American ambassador to China, he came to us say, Jack can you help us to sell the cherries in Seattle. I say how can we sell cherries? The cherries still on the trees. And we started place order, 80,000 families booked the order. And when we got the order we ship, we pick up the cherries and ship to China within 24 hours 80,000 families, 160 tons of cherries were sold. And last year we sold over 300 tons of cherries. And I don't know what's this year about.

 

We also helped Alaska seafood. We helped Canada to sell the lobsters. The lobster we sold probably ten years they cannot sell. And we also have a lot of American branded companies using our site to sell. Costco the company, they sold 600 tons of nuts on our site for the first month. And for the first month they're using Alibaba 6.5 million US dollars. So I think if we can help to sell lobsters, if we can help sell the cherries, why we cannot help these small, medium size companies to China using our system? So this is what I want, and also I want to take one day for example November, November 11th, the [Singles'] Day. We make that a shopping day. Last year for that day we sold 9.7 billion US dollars. And for the first minute shopping we have 24 million people rushed in for the first minute. And this year we guess the number was scary, so my purpose coming here that we need more American products to China.

 

We have a hungry 100 million people coming to buy every day. So this is why we come here. We not come here to compete. We come here to bring the small business. My vision is that in ten, twenty years anywhere you buy anywhere, sell anywhere. Philippine people can buy salmon on Norway. Norway people can sell things to Argentina. Argentina can buy and sell to China. This is how the Internet is going to change. And lastly I want to say we have changed the China. We feel proud of that, and we think that the change, the power of change is so powerful.

 

The first revolution of technology we have the, the organization of business called a factory. And had our first World War because of the strength of the arms and muscles. The second revolution energy, we have the organization called companies, and have the second World War.

 

This time Internet. The data, and I think we have a new business called platform. And the third World War is going to happen. And this war is not between nations, this war we work together against the disease, the poverty, the climate change. And I believe this is our future. The human being, the nations shall unite together. Rely on the young people using not the guns, using computers, using the data to solve the human problem, solve the society problems. And this is what I'm passionate about. It's not about the money, it's about dreams. It's not only the technology change the world, it's the dreams you believe that change the world. And we know the way, the way is not easy. As I was told in the past 20 years doing Internet business in China, today is difficult, and tomorrow is much more difficult. But the day after tomorrow is beautiful. Most people die tomorrow evening, if you don't work hard.

 

Thank you very much.

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