We couldn't resist playing with the picture we took of David Wei at the Alibaba command centre, to have him "point" at the new initiative, AliExpress ( Photo: IndiaTechOnline)
Alibaba.com in a new, ‘lite’ avatar: Invests$100 million in AliExpress, targeting smaller e-biz

The world’s biggest B2B ecommerce operation, Alibaba.com (www.alibaba.com ) has created a sister site for the small guys: formally launched worldwide on Tuesday, AliExpress (www.aliexpress.com ), is an an e-commerce platform offering smaller-quantity orders, instant online transactions, and an escrow service to protect buyers and sellers.

It's like the Express checkout in supermarkets which says " Ten items or less": You can sell as little as one product .

Alibaba.com has promised to invest at least US$100 million into the development of AliExpress.

Says David Wei, CEO of Alibaba.com: “AliExpress is designed to help even the smallest businesses to be more competitive because they can offer customers more unique products, at better prices through the benefits to global trade. We believe that small businesses are the key drivers to economic growth and stability as well as job growth.”

A key service for customers on AliExpress ( hitherto available only for premium members of the parent Alibaba.co) is the escrow service. Escrow payment protects all users who transact online at AliExpress by holding the buyer’s payment in a separate account and alerting the supplier that payment has been made so they can safely ship the goods. Once the buyer has received the goods, the payment is released to the supplier.

Many of the suppliers who already sell on AliExpress ( it has been in beta since September last and has already garnewred 3 million- plus product listings) are long-time members of Alibaba.com and have been working with overseas buyers for years through the site. The initial supplier base includes suppliers from China, but the platform will eventually be open to international suppliers as well.

Just over a decade old, Alibaba.com founded in Hangzhou, China, quickly attained an Indian member base of over a million last year, within 12 months of starting an India specific page of its portal.  The new service can be expected to appeal to India's burgeoning micro and small enterprise sector which is  rapidly exploiting the  e-comm edge to reach a global 'mandi' or market. 

April 27 2010