Davey Alba for WIRED:
"As China’s economy slows, homegrown Internet giants like Alibaba have reason to worry. One strategy Alibaba has for trying to stem the effects of that slowdown is to make sure as many of China’s 1.3 billion people as possible can shop online.
...In October 2014, the company announced it would invest $1.6 billion over the next three to five years to set up 100,000 rural service centers all over China’s countryside. So far, it has a presence in more than 12,000 rural villages. These e-commerce outposts are equipped with free Internet service and computers. The centers also give villagers a place to pick up the goods they buy online from Alibaba."
It’s impressive that China even has the internet infrastructure to support e-commerce on a scale that reaches beyond its megacities. That’s one benefit of massive investing and growth culture in China.
" 'Rural China, as they have gained access to the Internet and the means to purchase, has actually leapfrogged most Western countries in their savvy around online buying,' says Brian Buchwald, the CEO of Bomoda, a consumer intelligence company with a focus on the Chinese market. 'It is effectively their connection to the outside world, and the mobile web has become a means of access to items and opportunities that were previously unimaginable.' "
Initiatives like this makes Alibaba more than just another Amazon. In fact, it makes it an opposite, in that they’re decentralising. I can see further growth opportunities by offering such services outside of China, to nearby countries with huge, yet largely ignored rural populations (*cough* Philippines).