Alibaba's Rural Taobao could give impetus to Malaysia

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KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 12): The Rural Taobao initiative by e-commerce giant, Alibaba Group, which has assisted villagers in China to increase their income, could be adapted and give impetus to Malaysians, said Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation Sdn Bhd (MDEC).

MDEC Chief Operating Officer Datuk Ng Wan Peng said the programme, successfully implemented in 2015 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, could be replicated in Malaysia as long as the online platform infrastructure can be accessed in villages in the country. 

“China and Malaysia are two different environments, one being the size of the two countries, but there are a lot of new things that we can learn from the republic in terms of how they help the rural regions to be where they are,” she told reporters during the Alibaba Group Media Familiarisation Visit in Hangzhou, recently.

The Rural Taobao coverage has extended to more than 30,000 villages in China and has been very successful as the model brings online infrastructure into villages.

“The first thing that they did was to help the villagers get access to goods and services, which was difficult in the past, and once this was done, they look at how they can take products and services outside of the villages,” said Ng.

In Malaysia's case, Ng said the country needed to identify the objectives and what it wanted to achieve, and then the government could pick good features from Rural Taobao and implement it in Malaysia.

“For instance, infrastructure support is key, so we have to make it available for the villagers and see what they want,” she added.

She said Malaysia could start looking at it by making sure the online infrastructure in the rural areas are ready, then a lot of things are possible as the Internet is a basic right for everyone.

“If that kind of infrastructure is ready, then you're able to bring in a lot more opportunities,” said Ng.

Meanwhile, Alibaba Group Malaysia Chief Representative James Song said the group wanted to ensure the Malaysian small and medium enterprises’ (SMEs) task was easy, and would assist them as the first pilot project in China was relevant in enabling the SMEs to participate in global trade.

“With technology, it is the right time for SMEs to go global and start a pilot programme in Malaysia and other countries,” said Song.

He said the Rural Taobao online platform could reach every rural corner in China and that made the programme possible as there were many consumers with cellular phones in those areas. 

“The Malaysian government has paid a lot of attention to the Rural Taobao programme, we need a platform focusing on cross-border e-commerce...although Lazada is localised, I hope it has the capacity,” said Song.

In China, there are two Rural Taobao stations covering 3,000 residences in a particular area.

Under the Rural Taobao programme, which started in 2015, station operators are interviewed along with a written test based on knowledge of Taobao products and services, and they are equipped with delivery cars to drop parcels from one station to another. 

An operator interviewed by Bernama mentioned that investment in the programme was little as the equipment were provided by Alibaba, and the operator merely paid a deposit for other items such as computer, television and desks, and rent a place to carry out operations as renting a premise in a village was relatively low. — Bernama