Although China’s economy is so far faring better than others, domestic trade has slowed, affecting a large chunk of Alibaba’s business – 28.7m of its registered users are in its home market. To soften the blow, Alibaba has facilitated loans in excess of Rmb1bn to SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] that would otherwise have struggled to get money.
“We do the same thing as Muhammad Yunus,” says Mr Ma, referring to the father of microcredit who won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. “Let’s use the crisis to change the banks.”
But a bigger change for Mr Ma’s own company is the group’s shifting geographic focus. “Before this financial crisis, we were helping China’s products abroad. Now we are thinking about helping SMEs in the other parts of the world. Help them sell across the nations. Help them to sell to China,” he says. “In the next 10 years, we are moving from a pure China exporting centre to a global platform for SMEs to exchange products.”