Alibaba: Competing in China & Beyond

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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Case Details:


Case Code : BSTR288 For delivery in electronic format: Rs. 400;
For delivery through courier (within India): Rs. 400 + Shipping & Handling Charges extra


Competition | Innovation | Growth Strategy | Emerging Markets
Case Length : 23 Pages
Period : 1999-2008
Pub Date : 2008
Teaching Note : Available
Organization :
Industry : Internet and E-Commerce
Countries : China


This case discusses the success of Corporation (Alibaba) in China under the leadership of Jack Ma (Ma), its founder. It talks about the transformation of Alibaba into one of the most successful e-commerce companies in China and also analyzes its business portfolio. The case explains in detail the rationale behind Ma starting an e-commerce website and his efforts to bring about the growth of the company.

Alibaba had emerged as the largest e-commerce company in China. The company tailored its strategies to meet the needs of the customers and made a mark because of its understanding of the Chinese language and culture. However, some experts have also raised doubts over the sustainability of Alibaba's business model.

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The case highlights how Ma successfully competed with foreign e-commerce companies like eBay Inc. (eBay) by establishing a rival website,, in the online auctions market. However, Alibaba lagged behind in the Chinese web search market despite acquiring Yahoo! China's operations in 2005. Moreover, with (Baidu), China's leading search engine announcing its plans to foray into the rapidly growing e-commerce market in 2008, the competition was expected to intensify for Alibaba. After a successful IPO, the company was preparing to strengthen its competitive position in China and also to provide tough competition to other Internet and e-commerce companies in the global arena.


Understand the issues and challenges faced by a Chinese Internet/e-commerce company in growing its business.

Study Alibaba's business model and see whether it is sustainable.

Study how Alibaba achieved a balance in catering to global customers while customizing its practices to suit the needs of its Chinese customers.

Understand how e-commerce companies operate in emerging markets

Examine the challenges faced by Alibaba in expanding its business globally


  Page No.
Introduction 1
Background Note 2
Alibaba in its Initial Years 3
Business Portfolio 7
The Competition 9
The Much Awaited IPO 14
Outlook 16
Exhibits 17


Competition, Strategy, Business model, Innovation, Entrepreneur, Market leader, Global expansion, e-commerce, Small and Medium Enterprises, B2B, B2C, C2C, Web search market, Initial Public Offering , Alibaba, Taobao, eBay, Baidu, Google, China

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