Alibaba founder and e-commerce magnate Jack Ma presided over the launch of Alibaba’s first flagship office in Southeast Asia last June 18, 2018. It is intended to be the first Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) hub outside China and the first of its kind in the heady, tech-driven, and mobile-first market that is characteristic of the region.

eWTPs, in Ma’s parlance, are digital free trade zones that allow small and medium-sized enterprises to tune in to global trade by way of e-commerce. The establishment of what would be the culmination of the conglomerate’s efforts in entrenching itself firmly in the region is intended to serve as a one-stop solutions provider for local SMEs in the region, as well as being designed for maximum engagement with Alibaba’s existing local relationships – opening up new trade opportunities for local business and establishing a foundation through which it could support and promote technological innovation via cloud computing.

The launch of Alibaba’s flagship office in Kuala Lumpur stems from an initiative by the Malaysian government to establish the country as a regional hub for digital media. This saw the creation of Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ) Park in KL. An existing pact between Alibaba and the Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation aims to establish the DFTZ as a center for storage and logistics from which products and services sold over e-commerce platforms would circulate throughout the region to the rest of the world.

Alibaba has laid down a marker in the country and the region, with this recent launch evidence of its strategy to strengthen its foothold in the region, given the fact that Southeast Asia’s e-commerce sector is expected to grow exponentially in the years to come. Thanks to this development, the China-based conglomerate has a distinct geographical and logistical advantage compared to its competitors, in what is fast becoming a “scramble for Southeast Asia” following the entry of distinguished players such as Amazon and Google, all seeking to establish themselves in an intense race for market supremacy.

Jack Ma has perfectly timed his entry into the market, and it represents a win-win situation for both parties for the years to come. It is a testament to both countries’ confidence in each other.

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