After nine months on the ground, Alibaba officially opened its Australian and New Zealand headquarters in Melbourne over the weekend.

Further strengthening ties with Australia, Alibaba founder and executive chairman Jack Ma met with prime minister Malcolm Turnbull to discuss trade and donated $26.4 million to fund a new scholarship program at the University of Newcastle.

To date, Alibaba’s influence in Australia has been largely focused on recruiting new brands as sellers on Alibaba’s platforms and supporting existing clients with the challenges of operating abroad.

There are over 1,300 Australian and 400 New Zealand brands selling products into China on Alibaba’s Tmall and Tmall Global platforms, which provide brands — large and small — an easier way to enter the Chinese market.

The power of Alibaba’s platform for Australian products was illustrated through the 2016 Singles’ Day sale, with Australia ranked the fourth highest selling country. Although, it isn’t necessarily the right fit for every Aussie business, beauty retailer Adore Beauty abandoned its store on the Tmall platform after a six-month trial.

Through its financial affiliate, Ant Financial, Alibaba has also made Alipay available for Chinese shoppers to use as a payment method with Australian businesses.

It also opened its first data centre in Sydney last year, introducing Alibaba Cloud to Australia. Analysts believe the sweet spot for Alibaba Cloud will be helping Australian businesses operate inside China’s firewall.

Alibaba’s local team is lead by Maggie Zhou, Australian and New Zealand managing director.

“Longer term, Alibaba Group’s vision for the ANZ region is to build the entire operating infrastructure needed to enable local businesses to expand globally,” Zhou said.

“Alibaba Cloud launched its services and opened its data centre in late 2016 and there are now more than 1,000 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.”

South East Asia Expansion

Alibaba has signed an agreement to work with Australia Post to develop the first Australian marketplace within the Alibaba-owned Lazada eCommerce Network in South-East Asia.

Australia Post storefronts will be established on all Lazada platforms with pilots in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia to begin in 2017. This will allow Australian brands to enter new international markets via the online marketplace, similar to Alibaba’s Tmall.

The partnership builds on Alibaba Group and Australia Post’s relationship established in 2014, and will enable Australian businesses, particularly SMEs, to perform more effectively across key platforms, like Tmall Global, Taobao Global and 1688.com, through the sharing of data, increased marketing activities and improved logistics.

“Australia Post is proud to continue its strong partnership with the Alibaba Group. Our enduring relationship with Alibaba will allow local Australian businesses to access the biggest online marketplace in the world,” said Australia Post Chairman, John Stanhope.

Ken Morley and Jack Ma

Ma-Morley Scholarship Program

While in Australia, Jack Ma made the largest donation the University of Newcastle has ever received, paying tribute to his personal connection with the city.

When Ma was a teenager, he met Novocastrian Ken Morley, while the Morley family was on a tour with the Australia-China Friendship Society in Ma’s hometown, Hangzhou, China. The family befriended Ma and remained close friends until Morley’s death in 2004.

“To honour the experience and the special relationship I formed with the Morley family, the Jack Ma Foundation is delighted to announce The Ma & Morley Scholarship Program that will inspire, educate and cultivate tomorrow’s leaders. Alibaba was built by young people and we are committed to lifting up and empowering students so they can reach their dreams and ambitions.”

Students will be selected for the scholarship based on their interest and commitment towards cross-cultural understanding, cooperation and peace; social justice and equity; fairness and ethics in entrepreneurship and industrial relations; and sustainable development, including environment, conservation and renewable energy, the university said.

In its initial year, The Ma & Morley Scholarship Program will support 30 new UON scholarships, 20 scholarships to support students throughout the duration of their degree, including access to a unique and comprehensive engagement and enrichment program, and 10 one-off scholarships to support educational exchange, internship or immersion activities. When the program reaches full capacity, it will support 90 students per year.

“Dad would be extremely proud of Jack’s commitment to making a difference to students in our hometown, and so touched that their close friendship has led to this program, which will transform the futures of hundreds of University of Newcastle students, to hopefully do good things in the world,” David Morley said.

The first round of The Ma & Morley Scholarship Program will be advertised in mid-2017 for students commencing their first year of an undergraduate degree at UON in 2018.

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