Chinese tech billionaire Jack Ma has vowed to use financial support from the Victorian state government to grow Australian small businesses as he cut the ribbon on Alibaba's Australian headquarters.
It's understood the Daniel Andrews state government has provided a number of "incentives" to Alibaba to set up its Australia-New Zealand headquarters in Melbourne but the ecommerce giant refused to reveal the exact nature of these concessions or the size of the investment.
Mr Ma, who is China's richest tech boss, with a net worth of about $US28 billion said Alibaba didn't need the funds from the state government but he promised to use it to help Australian small business grow and expand offshore.
"The government giving money to us, supporting our business, we should be using this money for small business here, training people here," Mr Ma said.
"In China they say if a company gets money from the government this is a stupid company and we appreciate the generosity of the friendliness of this government and I promise we will use this money in a better way."
Addressing the lavish launch event audience, which included the Victorian Premier, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Arthur Sinodinos as well as some of the retail platform's top-selling retailers such as Chemist Warehouse and Swisse, Mr Ma said said the world was entering "the third technology revolution" and Australian businesses needed to harness the country's clean water, soil and air to sell products to the world.
He said Australia and New Zealand's clean environment provided a unique selling point for its businesses and was the "gold mine" for these economies in the next 15 years.
"In the past 30 years through a lack of experience in China we have a terrible polluted environment," Mr Ma said.
"There's a lot we should have learned from Australia and New Zealand."
According to Mr Ma, Alibaba's platform has the potential to create 100 million jobs worldwide, connect with 2 billion customers and make 10 million small businesses profitable.
The business, which connects consumers to businesses, businesses to businesses and consumers to consumers through its digital platforms has been hugely successful in China, as has its financial services operation, including Alipay, but its bid to transform into a truly global operation has proved more challenging.
Market watchers claim the Australian head office and the high profile launch is as much a public relations exercise as it is way to connect with Australian consumers and businesses.
However, Mr Ma is a compelling speaker and his business success along with his close links to some of the most powerful people in the world ensured a big crowd.
"We believe that globalisation is the future, a lot of people don't like globalisation today but we are strong believers," said Mr Ma.
"We are strong believers in trade, we think in the past 20 years globalisation was controlled by 16,000 big companies what if we can help 6 million business do business across boarders?"
He said globalisation was going through "growing pains" and if it could be reshaped into a more inclusive model, it had huge potential.
"In the past 18 years Alibaba focused on working with three global groups: small businesses, young people and women," Mr Ma said.
"We believe these three groups are the future, it's the small businesses that are the centre of innovation, it's the small businesses that creates the most jobs.
"Empower young people using data technology, we believe the world is moving from information technology to data technology ... and we believe that women are the most crucial workers."
Mr Ma said it was a little-known fact that 48 per cent of Alibaba's workforce was women, including a female chief executive officer and a female chief people executive.
"I believe women care for the world and for other people more than men," Mr Ma said.
Mr Ma has had the ear of US president Donald Trump and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in recent weeks and he said the Australian leader was very enthusiastic about his vision to build an e-hub in Australia specifically designed to help small businesses to import and export more efficiently.
A day after announcing a $26 million scholarship program with the University of Newcastle, Mr Ma said Alibaba was throwing open its doors to Australia to make it easy "to do business anywhere" for businesses in this part of the world.
"With a local office and expert team, Alibaba Group will help Australian and New Zealand businesses share their world-famous products with billions of customers around the world," Mr Ma said on Saturday.
"Whether a large company with existing links to China or a mum-and-dad run exporter operating out of a garage, Alibaba Group is here to make it easy to do business.
"Australia will always have a special place in my heart and that's why I'm so pleased to come back to contribute to supporting Australian businesses to create opportunities and jobs in a country that has meant so much for me."
The groups' Australian and New Zealand managing director, Maggie Zhou, said a bricks and mortar headquarters for Alibaba was a "key step" in ensuring Australian businesses had the support and information they needed to succeed in China and the rest of the world.
"Longer term, Alibaba's vision for the Australia New Zealand region is to build the entire operating infrastructure needed to enable local businesses to expand globally," Ms Zhou said.
"Alibaba Cloud launched its services in and opened its data centre in late 2016 and there are not more than 1000 bricks and mortar stores accepting Alipay across Australia and New Zealand.
"This is just the start with further growth planned in the areas of cloud payments, digital entertainment and logistics."
Mr Ma also announced a memorandum of understanding with Australia Post, which he said would strengthen trade opportunities for Australian businesses selling to the millions of shoppers on the Alibaba platform.
The agreement is based on a collaboration between Alibaba and Australia Post to develop the first Australian marketplace in the Lazada e-commerce network in South East Asia.
The story Alibaba's Jack Ma vows to use government funds to grow small businesses first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.