Top positive review
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Great book about building an internet business in a communist country
on May 18, 2009
"Alibaba" is the tale of how Jack Ma founded Alibaba group--a privately and publicly held internet commerce conglomerate in China. To my knowledge, there is no comparable company in the US--and perhaps the world...and it is worth reading about how Jack Ma created this business.
Alibaba group comprises several companies, including the Chinese equivalent of Ebay (privately held Taobao), Paypal (privately held Alipay), and it's own unique business to business commerce site: alibaba.com, which is publicly traded on the Hong Kong stock exchange (ticker: 1688:HK), but probably more easily accessible to American shareholders on the pink sheets (ticker: albcf.pk).
Alibaba.com is an important company. It has attracted the attention of famous American investors like Jim Rogers, who reportedly bought into the company during its ipo. Jim Rogers reviews the company in his book "A Bull in China." For those who have never seen what a b to b internet commerce company is--just go to alibaba.com--and take a look! It's fascinating. Alibaba.com offers companies a way to instantly "glance" around the world and find a supplier of choice for any product they may need. Want to find a supplier of shoes in Vietnam--you'll find 88 different entries advertising products. Just for fun, type "spices" into the alibaba.com's search engine, and learn about the world's suppliers of spices. Alibaba.com's most important function is to audit the suppliers (for a price) and bless the trustworthy ones. Global trade and Adam Smith's invisible hand will drive the growth of alibaba.com well into the future.
One lesson to be learned by reading this book: don't compete with alibaba group. Jack Ma has brilliantly cultivated relationships with his government that promise to help shield his company (and other home grown Chinese companies) from foreign competition (e.g. Paypal). Moreover, Jack Ma is willing to "dump" his product on the market to undercut the competition (Taobao charges no fees, allowing taobao to destroy Ebay's franchise in China), and he can wait for years before needing to make a profit. In any case, read this book to learn how business is done in China, where many of the world's most important companies now operate...
addendum: 2/5/10 In the past few months, Alibaba.com has created "AliExpress." Essentially, Alibaba.com is transforming itself into an internet retailer, akin to Amazon.com. Alibaba is now attempting to make money on individual transactions between Chinese wholesalers and purchasers throughout the world, using their own "Alipay" service to mediate the transactions. In 10 years this service will be huge. Look out.