The case narrates the evolution of the Alibaba Group, starting with Alibaba.com in 1999, in four different phases, with the last phase beginning after its IPO in 2014. The evolution is described from a social sustainability perspective, highlighting Alibaba's initial efforts to help small businesses in China access the world markets and later, its focus on facilitating e-commerce led entrepreneurship in rural parts of China. Not surprisingly, Alibaba Group's evolution coincided with China's economic growth, as the e-commerce platforms have significantly contributed to the growth of businesses and consumerism in China. Specifically, the development of e-commerce ecosystem by Alibaba Group, created a platform where not only retail businesses, but also allied third party service providers could emerge and grow. After its IPO in 2014, Jack Ma, Alibaba Group's chairman, explicitly defined "E-commerce in rural areas" as one of the three strategic directions going forward. The case discusses in detail the two rural initiatives "Taobao Villages" and "Rural Taobao" that the Alibaba group pursued as part of its rural strategy. It is estimated that the e-commerce of Taobao villages created more than 840,000 direct job opportunities and rural Taobao reached 202 counties in 22 provinces and established 9,278 village-level service stations by August 2016. The case also provides a brief overview of the ecommerce industry in India and ends with the questions: if there is a way for e-commerce players to provide socially sustainable business opportunities for the Indian rural population and how Alibaba should plan its entry and growth in the Indian market.
To learn how internet and digital technologies have helped small businesses grow during the last decade and a half, in the most populous country in the world. To understand the role of the e-commerce ''ecosystem'' that Alibaba Group has created in providing access and facilitating growth of small businesses and rural entrepreneurs in China. To study how the various stakeholders participating in market-based e-commerce business platforms can influence the business models to create synergies for all stakeholders. To explore the role of the governments in regulating and exploiting the digital technologies for social sustainability causes and growth of rural economy.