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The Rise Of The Consumer-Focused Biz

The business model that Zeng describes stands in sharp contrast to that of traditional business. It is a C2B model that demands constant innovation

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Seven years into his professional relationship with Jack Ma, Ming Zen was called on by Ma to join as his ‘zong canmouzhang’ - Director of Strategic Planning.. Ming, having spent a decade observing how companies in the Alibaba Group and the firms it does business with are becoming “smarter,” through interconnected networks that facilitate hundreds of thousands of simultaneous interactions every second, shows how companies everywhere can apply such decisions and actions Zeng through Smart Business and previous academic research gets readers to appreciate Alibaba’s strategies and approaches in a broader context. He vividly demonstrates why human creativity and innovation will become the key competencies for producing value in the future economy.

Ming Zeng has written the book especially for those outside the technology industry and even the startup arena introducing the readers to a simple, overarching framework to guide strategy formulation and execution. The author makes crucial connections between theory and practice, scale and growth dynamics, and changing managerial principles and the importance of creative talent. This book is an essential read for all executives and leaders who want to make an impact in this increasingly interconnected world.  

Interestingly Smart Business stuns us with numbers. For instance, the book opens with this Single’s Day event on 11 November 2017, the largest online shopping day in the whole world (larger than the whole week of online sales in the US after Black Friday on Thanksgiving), Alibaba processed 1.5 billion transactions, totalling about $25 billion. At its peak during that day, Alibaba’s technology platforms processed 325,000 orders and 256,000 payments every second. By comparison, Visa’s stated capacity at about that time was 65,000 payments per second globally.

Zeng also talks about how Alibaba seeks to operate with total transparency. He gives an example of how Jack Ma dealt with his stakeholders. Even when they were doing roadshows for IPOs, Jack made it clear that Alibaba believes in customer first, employee second, and shareholder comes third. So, that was made clear to everybody.

Here in the book, the author is talking about a combination of two very powerful forces. First is the technology revolution of internet, cloud computing, big data, artificial intelligence, and the waves after waves of technology revolution. And on the other side, it’s the leapfrogging of the emerging market. The business model that Zeng describes stands in sharp contrast to that of traditional business. It is a C2B model that demands constant innovation. And a lot of work for all of its participants. But, as the title says, it is “smart,” and the rewards are sometimes staggering.

As one reads the book, a couple of obvious questions are bound to come up. First, is this a model that, with modifications, can extend beyond the digital retail space? Second, is it essentially a monopolistic framework? My best guesses: yes, and probably. And so, I believe that everyone who wants to make a mark in the business world should read Zeng’s book.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Pavan Sriram

The author is CEO, Learngage, a learning engagement company

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