Alibaba buys in to “digital silk road” vision

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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.

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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.

Explore the digital landscape at Nicholas Hall’s upcoming OTC.NewDirections Executive Conference. Other topics on the agenda include Medical Device Regulations, Medical Cannabis, Switch and Smart Probiotics. This will be an inspiring day on 12 September in London, focusing on Where Innovation Meets Regulation. For details of the full agenda or to reserve your place contact elizabeth.bernos@NicholasHall.com

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OTCs in Action Episode 15: E-Commerce excitement in China

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Online purchases of OTCs in China are in action, according to James Fan, CEO, JOWIN China Group and Nicholas Hall’s Network Partner.

In 2014, Alibaba issued the world’s largest IPO (raising funds of US$25bn), increased its investment in its pharma dispensing e-business and aggressively developed 
its online healthcare shopping arm. It also supported many cloud-based health projects and encouraged traditional distributors to develop their online businesses.

“Double-digit growth of OTCs online and a rise of 20% among big brand nutritionals and cosmeceuticals proves that Chinese consumers are convinced by e-healthcare product providers. Tmall – operated by Alibaba – reported the Top 3 brands purchased on its site last year were Dong-e E-Jiao (Dong-e E-Jiao Group), Caltrate-D (Pfizer) and Fupai E-Jiao (Shandong Fujiao), which grew on average by more than 30% vs 2013. All three products have numerous line extensions that meet a range of daily healthcare needs. Regulations are set to allow the online prescription market to open up, too. Meanwhile, we believe the next digital healthcare hotspot in China will be at-home devices that can be used alongside online and mobile technology.