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Alibaba promises ‘spring thunder’ to support SMEs during the coronavirus crisis

Alibaba group chairman and CEO Daniel Zhang has launched the “2020 Spring Thunder Initiative” to help small and medium businesses ride out the coronavirus pandemic. 

“We will … create new supply chains, stimulate new demand, and promote new trade through a series of aggressive measures,” he promised in a letter to staff. 

Zhang says Alibaba will work to help export-focused SMEs expand into new markets through AliExpress, Lazada and Tmall World, offering some companies resource support, fee reductions and fast-track processing to help them transform and develop their business in China.

The company will activate manufacturing belts, incubate a group of “Super Producer IP” designations, and foster 10 digitised manufacturing clusters with production output valued at tens of billions in RMB. 

Another goal is to help 1000 factories develop direct-to-consumer sales in excess of RMB 100 million (US$14 million) within three years.

Alibaba plans to help extend “immediate settlement” services until June 30, helping alleviate financing challenges for SMEs affected by trading challenges during the coronavirus crisis.  

And the e-commerce giant plans to help the agricultural sector grow through digitisation along with creating 1000 Alibaba-run digitised agricultural centres across China.

Alibaba’s online merchant bank Ant Financial is to work with hundreds of traditional banks to provide zero-contact loans to “tens of millions of small and micro businesses” says Zhang. 

His memo to staff, who he calls ‘Alibers’ is reminiscent of founder Jack Ma’s letter to staff 12 years ago during the financial crisis of 2008 when the company rolled out major relief initiatives for SMEs to survive the “economic winter”.

At that time, three initiatives – “Dark Cloud,” “Wild Winds” and “Spring Thunder” – collectively helped 40 million SMEs to join the Alibaba ecosystem.

The full text of Zhang’s letter to staff follows: 

Dear Alibers

We are living through extraordinary times and Covid-19 is a battle being fought on a global scale. Our society, our economy and our everyday lives have been devastated by the pandemic; it has brought about monumental change. We, together with the rest of the world, are facing a future full of uncertainty, and it is more important than ever that we take immediate action.

Small and medium businesses (SMEs) are the lifeblood of an economy. If SMEs are alive, then the economy will remain alive. If SMEs are thriving, then the economy will thrive. Twelve years ago, during the 2008 financial crisis, we rolled out three major relief initiatives for SMEs to survive the economic winter. The three initiatives – named “Dark Cloud”, “Wild Winds”, and “Spring Thunder” – collectively helped 40 million SMEs to fully absorb the confidence and conviction of our e-commerce platform for rehabilitating their business. Not only did we help to resolve the immediate challenges in their operations management and financing, but we also clearly improved their competitiveness in the long run. We remain incredibly proud of our decisions back then.

When Alibaba was established 20 years ago, we defined our mission “to make it easy to do business anywhere.” The meteoric growth of the Chinese economy, together with advancements in internet and digital technology, and our unwavering commitment to our mission to serve SMEs have all helped make Alibaba what it is today. Given the massive uncertainties faced by the global economy and society here and now, we must stand arm in arm with SMEs around the world and fight the oncoming headwinds together. We must use the power of the Alibaba Digital Economy platform to take on the toughest challenges, and bring back confidence and inspire hope for everyone. The challenges we will face may be tougher than anything we’ve experienced over the past 20 years. But the bigger the crises, the stronger the connection between Alibaba and SMEs. The tougher the business environment, the more Alibaba needs to step up and fulfill our mission.

Today, I am formally announcing the launch of the 2020 Spring Thunder Initiative. We will deploy the power of commerce and technology that Alibaba has harnessed over the past 20 years to create new supply chains, stimulate new demand, and promote new trade through a series of aggressive measures. We will continue to build out the new modality of essential infrastructure needed for the digital economy era. We will take every necessary action to help SMEs triumph over this economic winter.

2020 Spring Thunder Initiative will include, but not limited to, the following measures and actions:

  • Help export-focused SMEs to expand into new markets through AliExpress, Lazada and Tmall World. Simultaneously, help a subset of these SMEs to transform and develop their business in the China market through measures such as resource support, fee reductions and fast-track processing.
  • Activate manufacturing belts, incubate a group of “Super Producer IP” designations, and foster 10 digitised manufacturing clusters with production output valued at tens of billions in RMB. Also, help 1000 factories realise direct-to-consumer sales of over RMB 100 million within three years.
  • Help the agriculture sector to prosper through digitisation, and create 1000 Alibaba digitised agricultural centers across China.
  • Help alleviate financing challenges for more SMEs by extending “immediate settlement” services until June 30th. Ant Financial online merchant bank will work with hundreds of traditional banks to provide zero-contact loans to tens of millions of small and micro businesses.

The pandemic has exacted tremendous pain to our world, but it cannot stop hope from being born. In the global and China fight against the pandemic, Alibaba has proven to be a bulwark in the battle through our concrete actions. This pandemic will ultimately end, and we will eventually see the beginnings of new life. We must band together with the SMEs that need the most help, and convert Alibaba’s resources into strength for the SMEs. We must turn the “danger” brought about by the pandemic into “opportunity” for SMEs to prepare for the future through digital transformation. Now is the time for Alibaba to give back to our community and to give back to our SMEs!

Sunshine always arrives after the rain. My fellow teammates, let’s get started!

Daniel Zhang

Alibaba Group Chairman and CEO

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