Alibaba founder Jack Ma set to visit India in Nov

Alibaba founder Jack Ma
Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of Chinese e-commerce major Alibaba group, is likely to visit India in November at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it is learnt. Ma had met Modi in May and told him he was excited about Make In India, a signature campaign of the government. The two have had interactions at global meets, too, in the past few months.

The PM is keen on learning about Alipay, a payment service on the Alibaba platform, and how a similar technology could be used for India's Mudra (Micro Units Development & Refinance Agency Ltd) Bank, a new institution being set up by the government for development and refinancing activities relating to micro units.

When contacted, a spokesperson of the Alibaba group told Business Standard, "We decline to comment on Jack Ma's travel plans in November.'' A query sent to the Prime Minister's Office on the same remained unanswered.

Alipay payment service is about bringing the world's consumers and businesses together. Its most popular offering is the cross-border e-payment service, a solution that allows buyers to pay for goods sold on international partner merchant websites using the Chinese currency. Then, Alipay remits the sum in a foreign currency to the international merchant in settlement. Mudra Bank, being set up to provide funding to the non-corporate small business sector, could benefit by using the knowhow from the Alipay model, an official pointed out. It could not be ascertained whether the government was looking at a formal collaborative structure between the Alibaba group and Mudra Bank. The finance ministry is expected to introduce a bill in the coming months to give statutory status to Mudra Bank. Under the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana, the bank has created its initial products and schemes for giving loans from Rs 50,000 to Rs 10 lakh to non-corporate small businesses.

Alibaba group, which made news last year through its blockbuster $25-billion initial public offering, is keenly watching the Indian e-commerce space and stepping up its act. Recently, online marketplace Snapdeal raised $500 million in a fresh round of funding from a clutch of investors led by Alibaba, Foxconn and SoftBank. While Foxconn confirmed it invested $200 million, sources indicated another $200 million came from Alibaba. The new round is estimated to have valued Snapdeal at about $5 billion.

Much before the Snapdeal fund-raising, Alibaba, through its financial arm Ant Financial, had picked up 25 per cent in One97 Communications, which owns and operates Paytm, a mobile wallet and e-commerce company. Alibaba is likely to increase the group's stake in Paytm to 40 per cent in the coming months.

In China, the Alibaba Group runs multiple companies and affiliated entities in e-commerce and allied segments. Following disappointing earnings of the company in the last quarter, yuan devaluation and slowing domestic growth, Alibaba is looking to spread out internationally, with India being high in the pecking order.

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