According to a report in the FT over the weekend, Chinese e-commerce retailer Alibaba is close to agreeing a deal with Russian internet company, Mail.ru, and sovereign wealth fund, Russian Direct Investment Fund, to form a joint-venture e-commerce company.
As highlighted in our earlier blog on Chinese investment in Africa, there is a clear vision from China and Chinese companies to invest in the physical infrastructure for a new silk road (Beijing’s Belt & Road Initiative) connecting Asia, the Middle East and Europe, and this latest news on a China-Russia e-commerce tie-up underlines the appetite for a digital silk road too.
In October 2017, the Russian Government approved a Ministry of Health bill to allow the online purchase and home delivery of OTCs, which came into force in January 2018. As a result, Mail.ru announced the launch of its online pharmacy in April 2018. At present, established western e-commerce giants like Amazon are largely absent from Russia, giving Alibaba the freedom to chart new territory in a market of 147mn consumers at an opportune time.
As the FT article points out, Alibaba is also fighting back against Amazon in certain markets, like Indonesia, where the US retail giant has stolen a march. For example, Alibaba has invested heavily in two e-commerce companies, Tokopedia and Lazada, both of which market goods, including healthcare products, across southeast Asia.
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