The platform offers Spanish companies access to a market of 674 million active consumers a year in China
The Alibaba Group is a technology company whose mission is to facilitate business everywhere. Founded in China in 1999 by Jack Ma and 17 others, in these last 20 years it has gradually expanded its radius of action and today operates in an ecosystem of markets with different sales platforms targeting a wide range of audiences and geographies. Its business comprises retail, cloud-based services, payment channels, digital media and entertainment and innovation initiatives, among others.
When did Alibaba arrive in Spain and what were its aims?
We have had a team dedicated to Europe and Spain in our central offices in Hangzhou for many years, but it was in 2018 when a local office was set up in Spain with representatives from different business units, from Tmall to AliExpress.
What infrastructure do you have in Spain?
We are present in Spain with a diverse team of experts who work with Spanish SMEs, companies and brands interested in growing in China and around the world. I'm responsible for the Spanish and Portuguese markets for Tmall, and my job is to make Spanish companies aware of the opportunities for exporting to China and connecting with the over 670 million active Chinese consumers in Alibaba markets such as Tmall and Tmall Global. I also work with Spanish retailers to activate Alipay in their stores, so that bricks-and-mortar stores can benefit from the growing number of Chinese tourists who visit Spain and to ensure those tourists can discover Spain through this app.
You have been with the group since 2015. What did it mean to you to be appointed the new head of business development for Spain and Portugal?
I began in 2015 working in the central office in Hangzhou, with our business division at Alibaba.com. One year later I was offered the opportunity to moved to Madrid to develop the Spanish market. The position I currently occupy allows me to help Spanish and Portuguese companies to sell their products in China. So far I'm very pleased to say we already have 150 on board.
You have just signed an agreement with ICEX to help Spanish companies sell their products on Alibaba's eCommerce platforms around the world. How is this help made available to the Spanish brands?
Tmall is currently the world's largest eCommerce platform for mobile and online trading for brands and retailers in terms of gross volume of goods. This offers Spanish companies the opportunity to reach over 674 million active consumers a year in Alibaba's marketplaces in China. The opportunities are out there, but it's very important for us to explain and help companies so that they're prepared when they come to penetrating the Chinese market.
You had already begun collaborating with Spanish companies to help them sell in Europe and Asia. What differences are there with this new agreement?
ICEX has been advising Spanish companies on the opportunities offered by the group's platforms to penetrate the Chinese market, as well as encouraging their participation. This agreement will further reinforce and extend our collaboration so that Spanish companies can obtain more information on all the commercial opportunities available on Alibaba's platform. The initiative includes programs for learning and information exchange that – among other things – highlight the products and categories with the greatest potential and the entry costs and requirements.
How is Spain important to the company's strategy?
I can't give you the exact figures, but there's no doubt that Spain is a very important country in the group's strategy, and that's why our team has grown in recent years. Spain is an important market because its products are very high quality, and they reflect a desirable “Iberian lifestyle" that Chinese consumers are now discovering. Spain has much to offer in terms of agri-food products: oils, wine, canned and bottled goods and typical products such as Ibérico cured ham. But not only that: cosmetics have now become a whole new success story on Tmall. We believe that there are many opportunities for Spanish companies and we want to continue educating Chinese consumers, who associate the Spain brand with variety and quality on all our platforms. Some Chinese people know Spain thanks to its cosmetic brands, which they consider to be on a par with their French and Korean equivalents. Alipay is also a great opportunity for Chinese tourists to discover Spanish gastronomy and brands that not are not yet available in China.
What market do you expect the Alibaba platforms to create for Spanish companies?
The Spanish brands that have joined our platform have seen their business develop very positively, although it always depends on the company, its strategy, and the investment in marketing in China itself. In 2018, Spain was the eighth country in product sales in China on 11.11 (Singles' Day). For example, Mueloliva, an olive oil company from Cordoba, sold 380,000 euros-worth of goods, and Sesderma, a firm specializing in dermocosmetics, had sales of over 5.4 million euros on that day. In addition, people in China are interested in Spanish culture, and more and more Chinese tourists are traveling to Spain. In fact, this year Chinese tourists spent 15% more through Alipay in "golden week" than in 2018, and Spain was the country with the third highest average expenditure per Chinese tourist that week.