Jack Ma set for hub talks visit

First-phase in­vest­ment to sup­port dig­i­tal hub

Bangkok Post - - FRONT PAGE - Ma: Will meet PM

Alibaba founder and CEO Jack Ma will visit Thai­land to­mor­row to fol­low up the com­pany’s 11-bil­lion-baht in­vest­ment in the Eastern Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor de­vel­op­ing a dig­i­tal hub.

He will also meet Prime Min­is­ter Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to dis­cuss fu­ture de­vel­op­ment and sign four mem­o­randa of un­der­stand­ing con­cern­ing Alibaba in­vest­ments. Mr Ma’s last visit here was in Oc­to­ber 2016.

Chi­nese e-com­merce giant Alibaba will in­ject 11 bil­lion baht into the first stage of the Eastern Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor (EEC), the In­dus­try Min­istry says, as the group braces for the im­mi­nent en­try of Chi­nese ri­vals JD.com and Ten­cent and the strength­en­ing of lo­cal al­ter­na­tives like Tarad.com.

The move sig­nals the be­gin­ning of the cam­paign that Jack Ma’s com­pany will wage against JD, Ten­cent and Thai e-com­merce play­ers. The lo­cal play­ers’ mar­ket share is ex­pected to shrink in the face of in­creas­ing for­eign com­pe­ti­tion.

Alibaba will also sign four mem­o­ran­dums of un­der­stand­ing, one of which will com­mit the com­pany to pro­mot­ing Thai rice and durian in the Chi­nese mar­ket through its plat­form.

Ac­cord­ing to In­dus­try Min­is­ter Ut­tama Sa­vanayana, the Smart Dig­i­tal Hub is sched­uled to fin­ish con­struc­tion by next year.

Alibaba will set up its fa­cil­ity and use its tech­nol­ogy to process lo­gis­tics data, with the ex­pec­ta­tion of serv­ing ship­ments be­tween Thai­land and China, as well as bor­der trade with Cam­bo­dia, Laos, Myan­mar and Viet­nam.

“Alibaba’s big data will con­nect all lo­gis­tics sys­tems world­wide fast and ef­fi­ciently,” Mr Ut­tama said. “More­over, Alibaba will team up with the Cus­toms Depart­ment to up­grade and digi­tise the clearance process to sup­port Alibaba’s op­er­a­tions in the near fu­ture.”

He said Alibaba’s move is ex­pected to in­crease the com­pet­i­tive­ness of Thai star­tups and small and medium-sized en­ter­prises (SMEs) in terms of new de­vel­op­ment of prod­ucts and ser­vices to reach the global mar­ket.

More­over, the Smart Dig­i­tal Hub will be po­si­tioned as Alibaba’s R&D unit, which the EEC Of­fice ex­pects to link with the gov­ern­ment’s EEC of In­no­va­tion and Dig­i­tal Park Thai­land.

Mr Ut­tama said Mr Ma will visit Thai­land to­mor­row to meet Prime Min­is­ter Prayut Chan-o-cha and of­fi­cials at re­lated gov­ern­ment agen­cies to fol­low up on the fu­ture project and sign the four mem­o­ran­dums of un­der­stand­ing for Alibaba’s in­vest­ment in the EEC scheme.

Mr Ma’s last visit to Thai­land was in Oc­to­ber 2016.

Mr Ut­tama said Alibaba will join hands with the gov­ern­ment to de­velop the dig­i­tal as­pect of hu­man re­sources and sup­port trade through the e-com­merce plat­form.

“We will have a project called Dig­i­tal Tal­ent, while Alibaba has also pro­posed to set up the Alibaba Busi­ness School in Thai­land,” he said. “We will con­nect with other ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions to train stu­dents, re­searchers and lec­tur­ers un­der this project.”

More­over, Thai star­tups and SMEs will be de­vel­oped to have more ex­pe­ri­ence and skills in dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy and in­te­grate with the re­gional global value chain, for which Alibaba and In­dus­try Min­istry will work to­gether with the In­dus­try Trans­for­ma­tion Cen­ter at the pro­vin­cial level.

Alibaba will team up with the Tourism Au­thor­ity of Thai­land to run tourism mar­ket­ing ac­tiv­i­ties through the on­line plat­form and con­nect with the TAT’s other chan­nels to de­velop big data for tourism in the fu­ture.

The Com­merce Min­istry will soon launch the Thai Rice Flag­ship Store on Tmall.com as the e-com­merce chan­nel for rice prod­ucts and durian in the Chi­nese mar­ket.

Mr Ut­tama said Alibaba thinks Thai­land has the po­ten­tial to be a dig­i­tal and re­gional e-com­merce hub, driven by the Thai­land 4.0 and EEC ini­tia­tives.

He said 68% of the global pop­u­la­tion owns a mo­bile phone and ac­tive mo­bile so­cial users world­wide and in Asia-Pa­cific are show­ing an­nual growth of 14% and 16%, re­spec­tively.

In ad­di­tion, rev­enue from e-com­merce busi­nesses is ex­pected to surge from US$3.54 bil­lion (111 bil­lion baht) in 2018 to $5.83 bil­lion in 2022.

THANARAK KHUNTON

Alibaba’s Jack Ma paid a cour­tesy call on Prime Min­is­ter Prayut Chan-o-cha in Oc­to­ber 2016.

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