KUALA LUMPUR: The founder of online retail giant Alibaba, Jack Ma, officially opened the company’s first office in Southeast Asia at Bangsar South here today.
In his speech, Ma said Alibaba Malaysia would turn the office into a training centre to encourage more Malaysians to trade globally.
“We see so many young people and want to empower them,” he said.
He said Alibaba’s focus was in three sectors – to digitalise a country, support small business to trade globally and create jobs.
To mark the occasion, Alibaba Malaysia will hold a Malaysia Week from July 6 to 12, during which the best of Malaysia will be on offer, from its durian to the best tourist destination.
The Chinese billionaire also spoke about his meeting with Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad this morning, describing it as “fantastic and a great meeting”.
He said his inspiration for Alibaba Malaysia came from the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) implemented by Mahathir during his first stint as prime minister to promote high technology enterprises.
Ma said he has seen how MSC empowered people and have watched it grow.
Last year, he said he decided to open an office in Malaysia based on the MSC concept.
He said Malaysia inspired him to move forward with Alibaba.
“He (Mahathir) is a legend. 93 years old but he knows so much about technology. After talking to him, I should read more books,” he said, drawing laughter from his audience.
“We share a lot of similarities. We believe in the internet. We believe in supporting and empowering the young, poor and rural folks.”
He said both of them were keen to look for ways to use techonology to empower farmers, create jobs and allow them to be more productive.
“We (Alibaba Malaysia) will train as many young people as possible to use technology,” Ma said.
The Chinese tycoon, with an estimated worth of US$43.1 billion, said he was confident the trade relationship between Malaysia and China would continue.
The government had earlier pledged to review several big-ticket Beijing-backed projects initiated by former prime minister Najib Razak as Malaysia sought to tackle its RM1 trillion national debt.
Ma, who had advised the previous Barisan Nasional government led by Najib on the digital economy, said problems were to be expected as China was one of Malaysia’s largest trading partners.
“If there is a problem, it is OK. People like us, our job is to solve problems.”
The event was also attended by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng and Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo.
Guan Eng said Alibaba’s involvement is not limited to the Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ) initiative in Sepang, Selangor.
The DFTZ, which was launched under the previous administration, is a regional logistics hub set up by the Alibaba Group and the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation.
“I know that Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing arm of Alibaba, has opened its data center in Malaysia in October last year (2017).”
Lim said Alibaba Cloud had also signed an agreement with Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to use its cloud services, through big data analytics and artificial intelligence software, to implement the ”City Brain” initiative.
“It is to help solve some of the traffic congestion problems which we are facing in KL on a daily basis.
“KL is the first city outside China where this smart city initiative by Alibaba is being rolled out,” he added.