Alibaba founder Jack Ma met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday and indicated to the possibility of a larger India presence.
Jack Ma is back in the capital after a gap of four months and has backed business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce as the model best suited for India and China, while pointing out that B2C, being pushed by the likes of Amazon and Flipkart, was the American model.
Ma — a schoolteacher who became China’s richest man after listing Alibaba last year — met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday and indicated to the possibility of a larger India presence, sources said.
The 50-year-old, who had come to India as part of a business delegation in late November, had told TOI that he planned to invest in the country. He later bought a 25% stake in Paytm, a mobile commerce firm.
The search for a larger footprint in the country comes at a time when the e-commerce story is booming, despite concerns in some quarters about “unrealistic valuations.”
In November, Ma had said that India is the second largest sourcing ground for Alibaba after China, where the economy has slowed down in recent months. In November, during private conversations, he had acknowledged that Alibaba had been slow in recognizing India’s potential.
During the 45-minute meeting on Monday , Modi is learnt to have discussed the possibility of using B2B platforms to take organic farm goods, handicrafts and products from SMEs to global buyers. Sources said that Ma too backed the model as it is seen to better for the growth of SMEs.
The Alibaba founder’s endorsement of the B2B model is in line with the government’s stance on e-commerce. The BJP government has decided against opening up the B2C e-commerce space at least for the time being as local traders see it as backdoor entry for global retailers.
A large part of the discussions with Modi are learnt to have focused on Ma’s experience and the model he has created and how e-payment, data analytics and logistics work can benefit Indian companies.