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Alibaba bets on global ambassadors for a cosmopolitan touch

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-02-27 13:38

Alibaba bets on global ambassadors for a cosmopolitan touch

A view of Alibaba Group's headquarters in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang province, March 21, 2016. [Photo/Xinhua]

HANGZHOU - French digital marketing professional Chloe Goncalves never expected that her work in China would make her an online celebrity.

Her post on LinkedIn half a year ago announcing her trip to China to work for Alibaba received over 31,000 likes, 2,900 comments and found her 1,600 new followers worldwide, inspiring her to blog monthly on her adventures.

In the past four months, she has been to Alibaba's annual cloud computing conference, joined in the Nov 11 Global Shopping Festival, visited Taobao villages, talked with Jack Ma, taken Tai-chi classes and been busy trying to learn Chinese.

"Things in China are changing so fast and the market and people seem ready to adopt new technology much faster than back home," she said.

Goncalves is one of 32 associates from 14 countries chosen by the Alibaba Global Leadership Academy (AGLA) for one year of training before becoming the company's global ambassadors.

Many Chinese firms are expanding overseas and Alibaba hopes that half of its revenue will come from international business soon.

"A big challenge for expansion is lack of understanding between China and other countries," said Brian Wong, vice president of the Alibaba Group in charge of global initiatives.

Many foreigners still regard China as an exporter of cheap products, even though the country has a thriving domestic consumer market where international products are in high demand.

"As an ecosystem which enables cross border trade, we want to share this story of new China and the new economy, which is more about the rising middle class, millennials, innovation and globalization," he said.

Consumption and services will dominate China's economic landscape by 2030, with the private consumer market reaching $9.6 trillion and accounting for 47 percent of GDP. The future Chinese consumer will be richer, older and online, according to a report by Morgan Stanley.

Wong pointed out that foreign staff with expertise will not only help identify and navigate new markets, but more importantly, "help bridge China and international markets and enable local companies big and small to use internet technology to trade globally."

China is a significant opportunity for the rest of the world, not a threat, because it offers such a large market for their products and services, he said.

Some of China's established practices can be applied overseas to share then benefits of economic growth across all sections of the society, according to Wong.

Alibaba's Ant Financial invested in India's largest payment platform Paytm in 2015 and helped it grow from 20 million users to 120 million in just one year, helping India link those under-served, particularly the unbanked population, and provide them access to more financial services.

More Chinese firms are recruiting international employees. Global talent with wide connections and strong cross-cultural skills will translate into core competitiveness during globalization, according to David Yu, vice president of LinkedIn China, which helped find about half of the 6,000-plus AGLA applicants.

Talent and innovation are crucial for economic globalization and China should look for talented people not only among its own 1.3 billion people, but in the global pool of 7 billion, said Wang Huiyao, head of the Center for China and Globalization, a think tank.

A new round of recruitment for AGLA is underway and Alibaba expects to train about 100 ambassadors annually for the next ten years.

Besides introducing foreign personnel, Alibaba plans to send local employees for over a year abroad.

"For a Chinese company, these are uncharted waters, but nevertheless, a very meaningful goal to ensure that we can bring the vision for inclusive trade and economic growth to the world," said Brian Wong.

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