The Chinese government’s ambitious “One Belt, One Road” project aims to connect China with dozens of Asian and European countries. Turns out, China’s biggest e-commerce player Alibaba also plans to follow the “One Belt, One Road” strategy to expand its presence outside the world’s most populous country. Speaking at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF-2016) in Russia, Alibaba founder Jack Ma said the most important regions for his company were “one road and one belt” places.

Alibaba Follows Beijing's 'One Belt And One Road'
Source: Flickr

Alibaba to setup Russian pavilions on its portals

Ma said the Hangzhou-based company plans to expand its presence in Russia. The online retailer will soon open Russian pavilions on its portals including Tmall. Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Europe and Russia were priority regions for the company, Jack Ma added. Most countries in these regions have a lot of small businesses and a lot of population. But they have poor infrastructure, and people don’t know how to sell.

Alibaba’s AliExpress is already the most popular e-commerce platform in Russia, attracting 15.6 million customers every month. While speaking at the SPIEF-2016 in Russia, Jack Ma also proposed the establishment of digital free trade zones for small businesses. “We should build an e-road that connects e-hubs around the world,” said Ma. It is part of his ambitious plan to build an electronic equivalent of the World Trade Organization.

Jack Ma wants SMEs to have access to global markets

The e-WTO would serve the interests of small and medium enterprises that contribute more than 50% of the total output in many countries. Ma said SMEs face numerous challenges including complex regulations, poor access to international markets, and a lack of access to financing. He also held meetings with a representative of the Russian presidential administration to discuss the company’s expansion plans in the country.

Earlier this year, Alibaba acquired Lazada for $1 billion to strengthen its presence in the Southeast Asian nations. The company is also gearing up to set up an online marketplace in India.