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Alibaba (Part 2): Alibaba Cloud, Digital Media, and Innovation Initiatives

Previously in Part 1 of our Alibaba series, we introduced Alibaba Group's history, corporate structure, and key operating businesses, in addition to exploring Alibaba's world-renowned commerce empire.

In Part 2 of the series here, we wrap up our introduction to the Alibaba ecosystem by looking at Alibaba Group's remaining business segments: cloud computing, digital media and entertainment, innovation initiatives, and financial services associate Ant Group.

In Part 3, we will be presenting a financial overview of Alibaba, while Part 4 discusses the Group's future.

Alibaba Series Roadmap

Note: Alibaba Group's fiscal year ends in March, so "fiscal year" in our Alibaba series refers to the year ended March 31st.


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Cloud Computing

Alibaba originally founded its cloud computing business (named Alibaba Cloud) in 2009, although Alibaba Cloud did not gain traction until almost a decade or so later as cloud computing rose in prominence as an industry. As of 2020, Alibaba Cloud is China's and Asia Pacific's largest provider of public cloud services, as well as the world’s third largest Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provider by revenue. The Group states in their 2021 annual report that the cloud computing segment is Alibaba's second pillar of growth (with the expansion of new retail being the first) going forward, a point which we discuss further in Part 4.

Currently, the cloud computing segment consists of Alibaba Cloud and DingTalk, a digital collaboration workplace that provides access to Alibaba Cloud's services.

Alibaba Cloud (Chinese: 阿里云), founded in 2009, offers a complete suite of cloud services that other companies can use to develop and deploy their own digital products. In fiscal 2021, Alibaba Cloud generated revenues worth RMB60 billion through serving 4 million customers across a wide range of industries.

DingTalk (Chinese: 钉钉) is a digital collaboration workplace launched in 2015 (similar to Zoom or Microsoft Teams) that offers different methods of working, sharing, and collaborating for enterprises. DingTalk is one of China's two most popular such platforms, with the other being Tencent's WeChat for Business. Though initially classified under the Innovation Initiative segment, Alibaba reclassified DingTalk to the Cloud Computing segment in April 2021.

As a whole, the cloud computing segment contributed to 8% of Alibaba's revenues in 2021.

Digital Media and Entertainment

Alibaba describes its digital media and entertainment segment as a way to "capture consumption beyond core commerce", with gaming, film and drama, and video platform businesses the Group has mostly developed through acquisition.

Lingxi Games (Chinese: 灵犀互娱) is Alibaba's gaming unit that develops, operates, and distributes mobile games. The Lingxi unit came about as Alibaba acquired a number of gaming companies starting in 2014 (including the then highly popular browser and Chinese internet company UCWeb) to gradually develop its own gaming division.

Alibaba Pictures (Chinese: 阿里巴巴影业集团) is an internet film and television company that produces and distributes movies and dramas, in addition to selling movie tickets online. Alibaba Pictures is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEX: 1060) and was previously known as ChinaVision Media, a film-making company, before being acquired and renamed by Alibaba in 2014.

Damai (Chinese: 大麦网), also acquired by Alibaba in 2016, is an online ticketing company for various events.

Youku (Chinese: 优酷), acquired by Alibaba in 2016, is the third largest online long-form video platform (similar to YouTube, as opposed to short video platforms such as TikTok or Kuaishou) in China in terms of monthly active users in March 2021.

(Note: the largest two online long-form video platforms in China are iQIYI, founded by Baidu, and Bilibili)

The digital media and entertainment segment contributed to 4% of Alibaba's 2021 revenues.

Innovation Initiatives

Alibaba also has two innovation initiatives that contributed to 1% of the Group's total revenue in 2021.

Amap (Chinese: 高德地图), formerly known as Autonavi (NASDAQ: AMAP), is a provider of mobile digital maps, navigation, and real-time traffic information in China (similarly to Google Maps), which Alibaba acquired and privatized in 2014. Amap also provides users with information on local services (e.g. searching for restaurants nearby) and also has a ride-hailing functionality. Amap is currently one of the two most popular navigation applications in China alongside Baidu Maps (Chinese: 百度地图)

T-Mall Genie (Chinese: 天猫精灵) is a smart speaker that provides an interactive interface for customers to easily access services offered by the Alibaba ecosystem. T-Mall Genie was the number one smart speaker in China based on the total number of units sold in 2020.

Ant Group

Ant Group (Chinese: 蚂蚁集团) was originally founded in 2004 as Alipay, an online payment platform with escrow functionalities to support Alibaba's e-commerce users. Ant has since been spun off and expanded to become a comprehensive platform for consumers to access digital finance services, with a particular focus on providing ease of access to credit as well as a wide range of customized investment and insurance products. During the year ended March 2021, Ant provided digital payment and other financial services to over one billion consumers and more than 80 million small businesses.

For extended information on Ant Group, check out our Ant Group series here.


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