What was once the name of an ancient folkloric character (actually the folk tale character’s name was spelled “Ali Baba” ) is now the name of a global online shopping destination that just turned Wall Street upside down a couple of weeks ago.
Branding and marketing expert Kim Garretson suspects that Alibaba could also do amazing things for American small business owners, as well.
“It will be some time before it produces” Garretson, a veteran of retailers Best Buy and Target announced on Austin Hill’s BigWorld of SmallBusiness. . “Still, they are aggressively recruiting staff here in the U.S., and it will be very interesting what kind of management team they put together. They intend to do very well here, and this could mean big opportunity for small business owners.”
Garretson works with Realizing Innovation.Net, an enterprise devoted to connecting businesses with new technology. A veteran of traditional retailers Target and Best Buy, he says Alibaba is a company to watch, not only because of the competition it will provide to American-based online retailers, but the impact they could have on small businesses.
“For many years Amazon.com and eBay have been looked upon as the thousand pound gorillas in e-commerce, and of course, Amazon has never made money” he noted. “But now with the middle class in China exploding, and Alibaba raising millions of dollars on the U.S. stock market, it is all very interesting. If your current business has been disrupted by Amazon.com, Walmart, eBay, or what have you, then maybe that disruption accelerates a bit with Alibaba. But I also think that Alibaba could give access to small manufacturers by connecting them with customers worldwide. I actually see alot of promise here for small business owners and mom-and-pop operations in our country.”
But if Alibaba could open up customers in China to American goods, couldn’t it also expand the flood of Chinese-made goods in to the United States?
“I’m particularly intersted in the ‘maker culture’ that exists here in the U.S.” Garretson replies. “With the advent of 3-d printing technology, virtually anybody can become a manufacturer, and I think that puts up a safeguard against a flood of more cheap goods flooding the U.S. from China. The country of China doesn’t have the huge brick-and-mortar retail infrastructure that we have here in the U.S., and only about 50% of the Chinese people have online access the way we do here and only about a quarter of the Chinese population has ever made an online purchase, so Alibaba has a huge upside. With the middle class seemingly exploding in China, I think there will be lots of new customers for American made products.”
But who, really, is behind Alibaba, who actually owns it and operates it? Is it the government of China, or private equity holders?
“With this new I.P.O., it’s a combination of very wealthy investors and financial institutions” Garretson says. ” As for the Chinese government’s involement, it’s hard to know about that. But being publicly traded, it will soon have to reveal quite a bit of information about it’s investors and its successes and failures. It’s definetly worth watching.”
Hear the full interview with Kim Garretson.