Fifty of them land in China every year. From oil to coffee, it is the one that grows »-

450 candidates for 200 seats. The opportunity was enticing: to understand what is happening under the skies of digital commerce in China. Meanwhile, study a strategy to get your business there, adding the more than 500 brands made in Italy that already sell online in the complex market. Entrepreneurs from Italian and Spanish SMEs participated in the six weeks of the first “Alibaba Netpreneur Masterclass Italy”, which also gained access to the global alumni community at Alibaba Business School, a global network of entrepreneurs. The initiative is in full Alibaba style, the Chinese e-commerce giant that from the beginning has made the motto “make it easy to do business anywhere” its development plan.


Rodrigo Cipriani Foresio, General Manager of Southern Europe at Alibaba

“To entrepreneurs approaching China, I say that one must implement an adequate strategy, not think that the high esteem and attention of the Italian brand is enough to be successful, or to think that it is easier because e-commerce is already worth 50 % there. of retail trade when the US is at 18% “, explains Rodrigo Cipriani Foresio, general manager of Southern Europe in the group born of Jack Ma 1999, today an ecosystem of b2b channels (, c2c (Taobao) and b2c ( Tmall and Tmall Global), clouds, logistics, travel and more. The head explains: “This year we will hold a second edition, again with Netcomm and Ice (the agency for marketing abroad and internationalization of Italian companies)”.
With Ice, Alibaba had already launched the helloITA program, a virtual showcase for Italian products and culture in China, and the Made in Italy pavilion on «For Alibaba, it has always been important to promote the development of a digital business culture. We need entrepreneurs who can understand, ride and predict market trends ».
Among these is new retail. “In China, digitalisation is two to three years ahead if compared to the United States,” says the chief. There is a huge part of young people, 15% of the population, who are already worth 25% of the purchases: a curious and fast Gen Z, who wants something new, preferably to measure. One phenomenon that has exploded recently, for example, is live streaming, an update of the classic teleshopping, in digital and social versions. During the shutdowns, these shipments were also shipped from Alibaba department stores around the country. ”

The figures for the Asian giant

The attention of news was also seen at the recent Beijing Olympics: Alibaba, which sponsored the Games, created a virtual human-like influencer, Dong Dong (in Chinese: winter) whose mission was to engage spectators, especially the younger and more technical ones. Results: According to information from the company, already at the beginning of the event, the demand for ski equipment had increased by more than 180% on Tmall compared to the same period in 2021, with 300% purchases of equipment for ice sports.
Alibaba’s figures are confirmed as monstrous: today it brings together ten million sales and 1.28 billion customers, a figure that has doubled compared to 2015. Italy is represented already from the first steps that Jack Ma wanted to take in the internationalization of the platform. It was 2015 and Cipriani Foresio, a twenty-year career in Mediaset where he was also CEO of MediaShopping, took over the leadership of Alibaba’s first European office in Milan. In November, the creation of Alibaba’s first freight hub (through the logistics company Cainiao) in Europe at Liège Airport was an important step.
“My role was to act as an ambassador for the Alibaba model for Italian and Spanish companies,” explains Cipriani Foresio. At Tmall and Tmall Global, there are over 500 flagship stores of Italian brands of all product categories and sizes, from Prada to Tod’s, from Kartell to Smeg, from Ferrero to Dr Vranjes, to name a few. During these two years, many new companies have approached, today we travel to 40-50 new players a year, with more niche companies and sectors ».

Fashion & tourism

Among Italian products, fashion, thanks to the presence of 90% of luxury brands, is the best-selling, followed by cosmetics and products for the home and for new mothers. “Oil and wine are a challenge,” says the manager. It’s about influencing habits at the table, there is not yet full awareness among consumers but we will get there soon. We started by taking the oil with the Apulian company Olearia Clemente. In wine, which is already a very large market in China, many French labels are imported. Italian wineries discount the fact that they are often very small. Coffee, with brands such as Illy, Lavazza, Kimbo, is already well positioned and will grow ».
Another area that Alibaba has focused on is tourism. “Three million Chinese tourists visited Italy in 2019 – says the chief – our country is the favorite destination in Europe and it would be important for the promotion of culture and products made in Italy for these tourists to return. We hope for the next reopening, in the meantime we have organized live streaming on Fliggy, our online travel platform, with guided tours of the Colosseum, the Duomo in Milan and soon we will be doing them in Florence, to keep the doors of museums open to Chinese tourists as well.

The global scenario

The group today led by Daniel Zhang, President and CEO, if he was not hit by the pandemic (“China has already restarted”, confirms Cipriani Foresio), however, pays for the regulatory pressure exerted by the Beijing government on the technology giants at home. The quarterly report on February 24 (October-December 2021) shows revenue that has grown by 10% (for analysts the slowest since listing), to $ 38 billion and a profit that falls by 74% compared to the same period of 2020. The group reports ” that it has made steady progress in a complex and volatile market “. Now the effects of the war in Ukraine, expensive raw materials and energy, will also be measured. “We have goals for 2036, including two billion consumers: the Group’s planning level is long-term. With this strategy, certain exogenous phenomena can be mitigated “, the manager concludes.

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