- Over the next five years, Alibaba and Unctad will help empower 1,000 entrepreneurs
- Entrepreneurs gained first-hand insights, participated in field visits and attended lectures
THE first class of Asian entrepreneurs has graduated from the eFounders Fellowship at a ceremony in Hangzhou, China. The programme, a joint initiative by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) and Alibaba Business School, aims to enable young entrepreneurs to unlock their full potential and bridge the digital divide.
With the conclusion of the second eFounders programme, Alibaba is now another step closer to fulfilling the commitment made by Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group, in his capacity as the Unctad Special Adviser for Young Entrepreneurs and Small Business. Over the next five years, Alibaba and Unctad will help empower 1,000 entrepreneurs in developing countries to use digital transformation for more inclusive and sustainable economic development.
“The energetic spirit and creativity of these young entrepreneurs and the altruistic approach they demonstrate in supporting the Sustainable Development Goals is encouraging,” Arlette Verploegh, Unctad’s coordinator for the eFounders Initiative, said.
“Their stories are truly inspirational and provide real-life examples that the young generation can use new technologies to generate economic opportunities for the benefit of their communities,” Verploegh added.
Out of 37 Asian entrepreneurs who graduated from the programme, nine were from Indonesia, namely:
- Fandy Santoso, founder and CEO of Hadiah.me: An online platform that offers rewards to online shoppers
- Amanda Cole, co-founder and CEO of Sayurbox: A platform sourcing for fresh produce distribution
- Aswin Andrison, co-founder and CEO of Stoqo: A B2B platform that aims to improve the F&B supply chain
- Wenyou Tan, president/COO of Taralite: A fintech startup that provides microloans
- Windy Natriavi, COO of AwanTunai: A platform that provides microloans for the underserved
- Yoshua Norza, founder and CEO of Pickpack: An online shipping agent that helps businesses or individuals pick up and deliver goods through customers’ desired vendors
- Budi Handoko, co-founder of Shipper: A full-service first-mile logistics aggregator platform
- Jowan Kosasih Kho, CEO of SimpliDOTS: A fully-integrated distribution platform
- Rishabh Singhi, COO of Reddoorz: An online platform for budget accommodation
Shaping champions for the new digital economy
Throughout the 11-day programme, Asian entrepreneurs gained first-hand insights, participated in field visits and attended lectures to understand the digital transformation that has swept China during the last 20 years.
Using Alibaba as the study model, as well as attending meetings with and tours of local incubators and e-commerce business schools, the participants analysed Alibaba’s ecosystem of platforms and solutions including Taobao Marketplace, Tmall, Alibaba.com, Cainiao Network, Hema and Fliggy, as well as recent industry trends and developments such as New Retail, rural e-commerce and the emergence of Internet celebrities.
Through these interactive sessions, the participants gained an understanding of the considerations made by Alibaba Group to support and grow the digital economy in China and looked into how they can apply the lessons learned in their home markets.
“We want to empower these budding entrepreneurs with fresh perspectives and provide the tools for success, through practical and theory-based sessions from our best and brightest talent within Alibaba and our network of partners,” said Brian Wong, vice president of Alibaba Group, who heads the Global Initiatives programme.
“It is inspiring to witness the passion in their pursuit for learning,” he said. “Their rigorous discussion of the issues and constant questions about the digital phenomenon in China have enabled them to discover new ideas and approaches for a more inclusive and sustainable development model for their own businesses and for the benefit of their communities back home.”
A unique aspect of the programme was access to top Alibaba executives and successful e-commerce players like PayTM, India’s leading eWallet provider, and Lazada, the largest e-commerce platform in Southeast Asia.
In addition, the participants visited various cutting-edge Alibaba facilities like Hema Fresh to experience a physical representation of the future of New Retail. They also had the opportunity to understand smart logistics with a visit to the Cainiao Jiaxing logistics centre and appreciate the immense potential of rural e-commerce development at Bainiu Village, also known as China’s Taobao Village after the online shopping website due to the seamless integration of e-commerce with every facet of life there.
The entrepreneurs also experienced the transformative impact of technology on society in China, with visits to the Dream Town incubator in Zhejiang, set to be China’s Silicon Valley, and to Yiwu City, a critical node for wholesale trade for the nation, and the world’s largest offline B2B market.
A global fellowship
For nine Indonesian participants, the eFounder Fellowship is an opportunity to accelerate their company’s growth through practical knowledge and many first-hand experiences. Not only unlocking their own potential, taking part in this programme also means that they are helping Indonesia to unlock its potential as the largest digital economy in the region.
“I was impressed by Alibaba’s Rural Taobao Village as it is a truly good example how digital inclusion can ultimately lead to a nation’s economic growth. Access to e-commerce for rural residents has significantly improved their quality of life and help them to get out of poverty,” said Yoshua.
At the conclusion of the intensive 11-day programme, participants were challenged to share how they plan to impart their new-found insights in e-commerce, e-finance and payments, smart logistics, big data and tourism to fellow entrepreneurs and their communities at home, and formulate improvements to their business ideas.
Windy said, “As a company, we envision a collaborative role for financial technology by opening up access for formal banking institutions to reach the unbanked markets. This programme has enabled us to increase our capability in creating a digital ecosystem that is inclusive to everyone, especially in digital payment and consumer financing.”
Reflecting on his own experience, Aswin stated, “Direct interactions with Jack Ma and his founding team allowed me to learn from their mindset and thinking process. We will carry on the spirit to empower small businesses, especially underserved restaurants and warungs, with technology, as well as to make Indonesia’s supply chain more efficient.”
The graduation of the 37 Asian candidates, who hail from from Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, means they have been officially inducted as Fellows of the global eFounders Fellowship network, joining an inaugural cohort of 24 African entrepreneurs who graduated in 2017.
As part of the commitment by Unctad and Alibaba to ensure all Fellows actively apply what they have learned within their communities, both organisations will continue to follow up with the Fellows with the support of local stakeholders every three months, and support the creation of digital ecosystems designed for inclusive and sustainable growth around the world.
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