Jack Ma trains Asian entrepreneurs
Alibaba Group executive chairman Jack Ma spearheaded a training program for Asian entrepreneurs in a bid to learn lessons on how Alibaba Group grew the digital economy in China and apply them in their home markets.
The first class of 37 Asian entrepreneurs have graduated from the eFounders Fellowship at a ceremony in Hangzhou, China. The program, a joint initiative by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and Alibaba Business School, aims to enable young entrepreneurs to unlock their full potential and to bridge the digital divide.
The young Asian participants came from Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. After the graduation, they were officially inducted as fellows of the global eFounders Fellowship network, joining an inaugural cohort of 24 African entrepreneurs who graduated in 2017.
Ma, who is also the UNCTAD Special Adviser for Young Entrepreneurs and Small Business, pledged that over the next five years, Alibaba and UNCTAD would help empower 1,000 entrepreneurs in developing countries to use digital transformation for more inclusive and sustainable economic development.
"The energetic spirit and creativity of these young entrepreneurs and the altruistic approach they demonstrate in supporting the Sustainable Development Goals is encouraging," Arlette Verploegh, UNCTAD's coordinator for the eFounders Initiative, said.
"Their stories are truly inspirational and provide real-life examples that the young generation can use new technologies to generate economic opportunities for the benefit of their communities," Verploegh said.
Throughout the 11-day program, Asian entrepreneurs gained first-hand insights, participated in field visits and attended lectures to understand the digital transformation that has swept China during the last 20 years.
Using Alibaba as the study model, as well as attending meetings with and tours of local incubators and e-commerce business schools, the participants analyzed Alibaba's ecosystem of platforms and solutions including Taobao Marketplace, Tmall, Alibaba.com, Cainiao Network, Hema and Fliggy, as well as recent industry trends and developments such as New Retail, rural e-commerce and the emergence of Internet celebrities.
Through these interactive and engaging sessions, the participants gained an understanding of the considerations made by Alibaba Group to support and grow the digital economy in China and looked into how they can apply the lessons learned in their home markets.
"We want to empower these budding entrepreneurs with fresh perspectives and provide the tools for success, through practical and theory-based sessions from our best and brightest talent within Alibaba and our network of partners," said Brian Wong, vice president of Alibaba Group, who heads the Global Initiatives program.
"It is inspiring to witness the passion in their pursuit for learning," he said. "Their rigorous discussion of the issues and constant questions about the digital phenomenon in China have enabled them to discover new ideas and approaches for a more inclusive and sustainable development model for their own businesses and for the benefit of their communities back home."
A unique aspect of the program was access to top Alibaba executives and successful e-commerce players like PayTM, India's leading eWallet provider and Lazada, the largest e-commerce platform in Southeast Asia.
Participants visited various cutting-edge Alibaba facilities like Hema Fresh to experience a physical representation of the future of New Retail. They also had the opportunity to understand smart logistics with a visit to the Cainiao Jiaxing logistics center and appreciate the immense potential of rural e-commerce development at Bainiu Village, also known as China's Taobao Village after the online shopping website due to the seamless integration of e-commerce with every facet of life there.
The entrepreneurs also experienced the transformative impact of technology on society in China, with visits to the Dream Town incubator in Zhejiang, set to be China's Silicon Valley, and to Yiwu City, a critical node for wholesale trade for the nation, and the world's largest offline B2B market.
At the conclusion of the intensive 11-day program, participants were challenged to share how they plan to impart their new-found insights in e-commerce, e-finance and payments, smart logistics, big data and tourism to fellow entrepreneurs and their communities at home, and formulate improvements to their business ideas.
"As we graduate from the program, we signed a commitment with Alibaba Group and UNCTAD to become ambassadors of change not just in our country, but around the world. Our mission now is not just to solve our customers' problems, but to become champions of the new economy with our innovative platforms in our respective industries," said Abigail Joyce Mendoza of StyleGenie, a styling and clothing subscription box service in the Philippines, who took part in the program.