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Alibaba embarks on global plan with new English site

A Tmall courier on delivery rounds; Tmall's new portal allows English- speaking merchants to fill in details about their products.

Hong Kong

ALIBABA Group Holding Ltd has set up a new website to double the number of global brands on its flagship online mall, taking an important step towards fulfilling its global ambitions.

The e-commerce giant began offering an English-language portal on Tmall for the first time on Wednesday to entice more merchants from around the world to sell to Chinese consumers. Alibaba is counting on the initiative to help double the number of foreign brands on Tmall Global to 40,000 in three years, said Yi Qian, deputy general manager of the service, which caters to buyers of foreign goods.

Alibaba is seeking new growth engines to offset a cooling economy at home as the trade war rages on, while fending off increasingly aggressive competitors including Inc and Pinduoduo Inc. Billionaire co-founder Jack Ma had set a goal of generating more than half of the company's revenue from outside China by 2025.

"The website will widen our reach to merchants, especially to those medium and small-sized businesses around the world," Mr Yi said in an interview. "We will help them with our logistics and marketing services."

Alibaba grew to become China's largest public company by popularising e-commerce across the world's No 2 economy, on which it still depends for the vast majority of its business. It has begun making inroads into South-east Asia through the acquisition of Lazada, but now aims to broaden its reach even further.

Tmall's new portal allows English- speaking merchants to fill in details online about their products. Alibaba then vets them based on category and quality, and will contact merchants within 72 hours to gauge if their products are a fit, Mr Yi said. Previously, such sellers could only join Tmall through personal introduction, or by signing up at trade fairs. Other foreign-language versions of the website are in the works, including Spanish, Japanese and Korean.

Alibaba does not disclose dealings over its Tmall platform, which helps merchants sell goods to 600 million- plus buyers, but it is one of the single largest online retailers in China's US$1 trillion e-commerce arena. Jiang Fan, one of Mr Ma's closest lieutenants, said in April that the company wanted to double transaction volumes on its Tmall service in three years. BLOOMBERG