Customer shops at an Alibaba rural service centre in Jinjia Village, Tonglu, Zhejiang province, China
A customer shops at an Alibaba rural service centre in Jinjia Village, Tonglu, Zhejiang province, China, July 20, 2015. E-commerce growth in the countryside now outpaces that in major cities, though fewer than one tenth of online purchases made on Alibaba platforms were shipped to rural areas in the first quarter of this year. Alibaba estimates the potential market at 460 billion yuan ($74 billion) by next year. Picture taken July 20. REUTERS/Aly Song - RTX1MH9UPhotograph by Aly Song — Reuters

    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

    SectorTechnology
    IndustryInternet Software & Services
    CountryChina
    Revenues ($ millions)12,293
    Company typePublic
    CEOZhang Yong
    Websitewww.alibabagroup.com
    Impact SegmentEconomic Opportunity/Financial Inclusion

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