There’s hardly anyone who doesn’t know about Alibaba, either from story books or as the famed Chinese business firm battling scam and fake products–but only a few may know how the founder Jack Ma came to use the name ALIBABA.
Ma explained: “One day I was in San Francisco in a coffee shop, and I was thinking Alibaba is a good name. And then a waitress came, and I said, “Do you know about Alibaba?” And she said yes.
“I said, ‘What do you know about Alibaba?’, and she said, ‘Open Sesame’. “And I said, ‘Yes, this is the name!’
“Then I went on to the street and found 30 people and asked them, ‘Do you know Alibaba?’ People from India, people from Germany, people from Tokyo and China … they all knew about Alibaba. Alibaba – open sesame. Alibaba is a kind, smart business person, and he helped the village.
“So … easy to spell, and globally known. Alibaba opens sesame for small- to medium-sized companies. We also registered the name ‘Alimama’, in case someone wants to marry us!” He joked.
Alibaba, founded in Hangzhou, China is the world’s largest online business-to-business trading platform for small businesses.
The company has three main services–Alibaba.com, a transaction-based retail website which handles sales between importers and exporters from more than 240 countries and regions; a Chinese portal 1688.com which was developed for domestic business-to-business trade in China; and AliExpress.com, which allows smaller buyers to buy small quantities of goods at wholesale prices.
In the year 2007, Alibaba.com went public at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The company was however, delisted in 2012.
Image: Alibaba Group’s trading office in New York, USA.
Alibaba Group isn’t scandal-free although it has always been so good at damage control. In May 2012, a US law enforcement agent posing as an American broker representing persons in Iran, posted an advertisement on Alibaba.com seeking to purchase uranium. That was a trick aimed at clamping down on uranium dealers around the world.
An unsuspecting trader Patrick Campbell of Sierra Leone made a bid for the million-dollar transaction.
Then in August 2013, he booked a flight to the US with samples of uranium ore, apparently to negotiate for a bigger deal. He was subsequently arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York.
Patrick was alleged to have concealed bits of uranium ore in the soles of his shoes.
After his arrest and trial, the suspect was charged to court but got acquitted because the evidence samples contained just an insignificant amount of uranium.
Notwithstanding, he was accused of seeking to arrange the export of 1,000 tonnes of “yellowcake” [another name for uranium in the black market] from Sierra Leone to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, packed in drums and disguised as the mineral chromite.
Alibaba Group claim it is doing much more within and outside Mainland China, to ensure fake products and illegal dealers are kept in check. Whether their efforts have yielded the desired fruit is left for another argument.