FEATURE7 May 2014

International trade mission

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As Alibaba readies for its IPO, Jo Bowman meets its head of Europe, James Hardy, to discover how the Chinese e-commerce company is looking to grease the wheels of global business using a data-first approach.


Chances are, you’ve only recently heard of Alibaba. It’s the first name in e-commerce in China, with sales worth more than those of Amazon and eBay combined. It reportedly controls nearly 80% of China’s vast, rapidly growing internet shopping market, and its Alipay payments unit completed more mobile payment transactions in 2013 than PayPal and Square Inc. put together.

But Alibaba was a relative unknown until news broke in March of a planned IPO. And now, as people are quickly learning, Alibaba is no longer just a Chinese company. Its business-to-business (B2B) service links small enterprises around the world with manufacturers in China, and its business- to-consumer (B2C) operation gives them a shop window in the world’s most populous market. The company employs 24, 000 people and has more than 36m registered users.

James Hardy, Alibaba.com’s head of Europe, is bringing the principles of Chinese e-commerce to Europe. Alibaba.com is the B2B arm of the parent company that aims ...