unctad.org | Asian e-commerce entrepreneurs complete UNCTAD-Alibaba course
Asian e-commerce entrepreneurs complete UNCTAD-Alibaba course
05 April 2018
The 11-day programme gave three-dozen Asian entrepreneurs first-hand insight into China's e-commerce transformation for them to apply back home.

Three-dozen Asian entrepreneurs have graduated from UNCTAD and Alibaba Business School’s eFounders Fellowship at a ceremony in Hangzhou, China. The programme helps young entrepreneurs to unlock their full potential and bridge the digital divide.

With the conclusion of the second eFounders programme on 4 April, Alibaba is now another step closer to fulfilling the commitment made by Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group, in his capacity as UNCTAD’s special adviser for young entrepreneurs and small business.

During the next five years, UNCTAD and Alibaba will help empower 1,000 entrepreneurs in developing countries to use digital transformation for more inclusive and sustainable economic development.

“The energetic entrepreneurial spirit and creativity of these young entrepreneurs and the altruistic approach they demonstrate in supporting the Sustainable Development Goals is encouraging,” Arlette Verploegh, UNCTAD’s coordinator for the eFounders Initiative, said.

“Their stories are truly inspirational and provide real life examples of how to be grasp the opportunities that new technologies bring and be inclusive,” Ms. Verploegh added. 

New digital champions

Throughout the 11-day programme, the Asian entrepreneurs gained first-hand insight, participated in field visits and attended lectures to understand the digital transformation that has swept China during the last 20 years.

Using Alibaba as the study model, as well as attending meetings with and tours of local incubators and e-commerce business schools, the participants analyzed Alibaba’s ecosystem of platforms and solutions including Taobao Marketplace, Tmall, Alibaba.com, Cainiao Network, Hema and Fliggy, as well as recent industry trends and developments such as new retail, rural e-commerce and the emergence of Internet celebrities.

Through these interactive and engaging sessions, the participants gained an understanding of the considerations made by Alibaba Group to support and grow the digital economy in China and looked at how they can apply the lessons in their home markets.

“We want to empower these budding entrepreneurs with fresh perspectives and provide the tools for success, through practical and theory-based sessions from our best and brightest talent within Alibaba and our network of partners,” said Brian Wong, vice president of Alibaba group and head of the company’s Global Initiatives programme.

“It is inspiring to witness the passion in their pursuit for learning,” he said. “Their rigorous discussion of the issues and constant questions about the digital phenomenon in China have enabled them to discover new ideas and approaches for a more inclusive and sustainable development model for their own businesses and for the benefit of their communities back home.”

A unique aspect of the programme was access to top Alibaba executives and successful e-commerce players like PayTM, India’s leading eWallet provider, and Lazada, the largest e-commerce platform in Southeast Asia.

In addition, the participants visited various cutting-edge Alibaba facilities like Hema Fresh to experience a physical representation of the future of new retail. They also had the opportunity to understand smart logistics with a visit to the Cainiao Jiaxing logistics centre and appreciate the immense potential of rural e-commerce development at Bainiu Village, also known as China’s Taobao Village after the online shopping website due to the seamless integration of e-commerce with every facet of life there.

The entrepreneurs also experienced the transformative impact of technology on the society in China, with visits to the Dream Town incubator in Zhejiang, set to be China’s Silicon Valley, and to Yiwu City, a critical node for wholesale trade for the nation, and the world’s largest offline B2B market.

Ambassadors of change

At the end of the intensive programme, participants were challenged to share how they plan to impart their new-found insights in e-commerce, e-finance and payments, smart logistics, big data and tourism to fellow entrepreneurs and their communities at home, and to formulate improvements to their business ideas.

Malaysian participant Soh Yien Yee, co-founder and chief marketing officer of AVANA, a platform that helps businesses use social media for sales, said she is eager to share all she has learned with fellow entrepreneurs and to use the advantages of e-commerce in Malaysia.

“When I go back to Malaysia, my focus will be sharing with all those involved in the business how to leverage technology and harness it to further our business model,” she said.

She also said that the programme provided an avenue for like-minded entrepreneurs across Asia to share ideas as well as open opportunities for business networking and growth.

Abigail Joyce Mendoza of StyleGenie, a styling and clothing subscription box service in the Philippines, said: “As we graduate from the programme, we signed a commitment with Alibaba Group and UNCTAD to become ambassadors of change not just in our country, but around the world. Our mission now is not just to solve our customers' problems, but to become champions of the new economy with our innovative platforms in our respective industries.”

Asian entrepreneurs from UNCTAD and Alibaba Business School

The graduation of the 37 Asian candidates, who hail from Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam, means they have also been officially inducted as fellows of the global eFounders Fellowship network, joining the inaugural cohort of 24 African entrepreneurs who graduated in 2017.

As part of the commitment by UNCTAD and Alibaba to ensure all fellows actively apply what they have learned within their communities, both organizations will follow up with them every three months to support them in creating digital ecosystems for inclusive and sustainable growth around the world.

The eFounders Initiative is part of a set of smart partnerships UNCTAD is creating to help countries reach the Sustainable Development Goals.


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