SHANGHAI – Alibaba is the world’s biggest e-commerce platform. Over 420 million people scooped up $485 billion worth of stuff last year on Alibaba’s sites. The company went public in 2014, raising $25 billion — more than Facebook — in the largest offering in the history of the New York Stock Exchange. Some things to know about the company:
WHAT IS ALIBABA?
Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms cater to both Chinese and global consumers. At its heart is Taobao, a Chinese consumer-to-consumer website much like eBay. Tmall offers merchants official storefronts to consumers in China. Alibaba and AliExpress connect businesses in China with buyers around the world.
WHAT ELSE DOES ALIBABA DO?
Alibaba also runs an online payment platform called Alipay. It has stakes in Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, as well as Youku Tuduo, a video platform akin to YouTube. And it’s building up a cloud computing and internet infrastructure business.
WHO’S BEHIND THE COMPANY?
Alibaba was founded in the living room of a former English teacher named Jack Ma. A self-made billionaire, Ma is a folk-hero to some Chinese.
WHY DO SOME PEOPLE HATE ALIBABA?
There is widespread suspicion that Alibaba knowingly profits from the sale of fakes on its platforms — a point Gucci America, among others, has made in an ongoing U.S. lawsuit. Some brands complain about how slow and difficult it is to get fakes removed from Alibaba’s sites. Alibaba says it has spent tens of millions of dollars on anti-counterfeiting and that it is constantly trying to improve its systems.
WHERE’S THE NAME FROM?
Ma knew from the beginning that he wanted a name people around the world would recognize. He asked a waitress in a San Francisco restaurant if she recognized the name Alibaba and she said, yes, open sesame! Drawn from Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, the name stuck.