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Alibaba’s original business was connecting wholesalers in ­China—making everything from blue jeans to mopeds in bulk—with large buyers around the world. It worked so well that Alibaba began running consumer-based marketplaces, the eBay-like Taobao and Amazon-like Tmall, which now drive the majority of the company’s sales. The marketplaces are a boon, especially for China’s rural sellers, of which more than 2 million are active. They include farmers selling fresh produce on Taobao and small manufacturers offering trinkets. Before, these sellers were closed off from most of China and the world. Rural buyers, too, have been transformed by the new products available to them. Alibaba has brought tens of millions of poor people online—and into a thriving economy.

Company Info

Internet Software & Services
Revenues ($ millions)12,293
Company type
Zhang Yong
Impact Segment
Economic Opportunity/Financial Inclusion

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