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更新时间:2017-10-24 11:47:09 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

A Showdown Brews Between Amazon and Alibaba, Far From Home

SINGAPORE — From this concrete warehouse perched on the edge of a potentially vast new market for online shopping, the Alibaba Group of China hopes to beat Amazon one head of lettuce at a time.


Under the glare of fluorescent lights, green-vested workers carefully wrap fruit, cheese and other perishables for delivery by vans to a growing group of Singaporeans who prefer to do their shopping online. On a nearby wall, printouts show the sorts of defects that customers have complained about in the past: overripe avocados, smelly spinach, rotten honeydews.


“It’s getting better and better,” said Vikram Rupani, president of RedMart, an online grocery company based in Singapore that is part of Alibaba’s push into the region, “but it’s a continuous process that never ends.”

“情况越来越好,但这是一个持续的过程,永远不会有终点,”新加坡生鲜网购公司RedMart的总裁维克拉姆·鲁伯尼(Vikram Rupani)表示。这里是阿里巴巴在新加坡地区布局的一个据点。

Alibaba and Amazon already dominate the business of selling stuff online in their home markets. Increasingly, they are competing against each other on neutral ground.


Both are spending billions of dollars on Asia — particularly Southeast Asia and India — as they look for a place that could repeat China’s explosive transformation into the world’s biggest online shopping market.


Amazon has committed $5 billion to India, where it lures customers to sign up for its Prime service, which includes Western movies and television shows, for a small fraction of the $99 annual membership price in the United States. Alibaba has invested roughly $500 million for stakes in both Paytm — India’s largest mobile payments platform — and its e-commerce affiliate, Paytm Mall.

亚马逊承诺在印度投入50亿美元,吸引该国用户注册Prime会员,其中包括西方影视节目,而年费只是美国99美元(约合人民币650元)年费的几分之一。阿里巴巴在印度最大的移动支付平台Paytm及其电商公司Paytm Mall上有大约5亿美元的投资。

Alibaba’s bigger bet is in Southeast Asia. It has spent more than $2 billion to take control of Lazada, a five-year-old online shopping company based in Singapore and doing business in six countries. Last year, Lazada bought RedMart, the online retail grocery.


The promise is there, as the region’s young middle class grows and goes online. Southeast Asia’s e-commerce sales could total $88 billion by 2025, according to projections from Google and Temasek Holdings, the Singaporean sovereign wealth fund. Volume was less than one-tenth that in 2015.

随着年轻的中产阶级人群的开始成长并开始使用网络,该地区商业前景可观。根据谷歌和新加坡主权财富基金淡马锡控股公司(Temasek Holdings)的预测,到2025年,东南亚的电商销售总额可达到880亿美元。比2015年增长10倍以上。

Over about the same period, India’s market could increase six times to a similar amount, Bain & Company, a consulting firm, projects.

咨询公司贝恩公司(Bain & Company)预测,在大约相同的时间段内,印度市场可能会有6倍增长,达到类似规模。

Alibaba and Amazon are seeking consumers like Janice Lee Fang, a Singaporean who decided she needed to buy a robot to amuse a 6-year-old daughter home sick from school.

阿里巴巴和亚马逊正在争取像新加坡人方丽(Janice Lee Fang)这样的消费者。方丽6岁的女儿在学校里会想家。为了逗女儿开心,她决定买一个机器人。

“I was thrilled,” said Ms. Fang, who said she also uses Alibaba’s services. “I had time to unbox it and teach her how to use it. It’s a last-minute shopping savior.”


But Southeast Asia is no China. A diffuse area of 600 million people, the region is divided by politics, language and culture. Some places are modern, like Singapore. Other places lack the roads and other infrastructure to get people what they need.


“It’s a mix of urban, semi-urban and rural areas, separated by large distances and — in the Philippines and Indonesia — by water,” said Mike Booker, a partner at the Southeast Asian arm of Bain. “Cash on delivery is still prevalent, and other local players are in the fray.”

“这是城市、城乡结合部和乡村地区的集合,被远距离和(在菲律宾和印度尼西亚的)水域分隔,”贝恩东南亚分公司的合伙人迈克·布克(Mike Booker)说。“货到付款依然很流行,其他的本土竞争者依然有竞争力。”

The challenges have forced Lazada, Alibaba’s biggest Southeast Asian operation, to get creative.


In Vietnam, local post offices take customer returns and give cash refunds. In Malaysia, customers can collect merchandise from lockers at 7-Eleven stores. And in the Philippines, Lazada uses gas stations as places where merchants can drop off their goods for delivery personnel to pick up.


“We’re in the super, super, super early days,” said Inanc Balci, who oversees Lazada operations in the Philippines.

“我们还处在非常非常非常早的阶段,”拉扎达在菲律宾的负责人伊南科·巴尔西(Inanc Balci)说。

Alibaba’s international arm has seen its latest quarterly sales more than double in a year, in part from Lazada’s contribution. Still, Lazada and its RedMart subsidiary remain a tiny, and unprofitable, part of Alibaba’s empire. Max Bittner, Lazada’s chief executive, said its Chinese parent has been willing to spend money to build its delivery capabilities and draw more customers.

阿里巴巴国际部见证了自己最近一个季度的销售额在一年时间里翻了一倍有余。这在一定程度上是拉扎达的功劳。但拉扎达和它的子公司RedMart仍是阿里巴巴帝国中一个极小的、不盈利的部分。拉扎达的首席执行官马克斯·比特纳(Max Bittner)说,企业的中国母公司愿意出钱打造它的货运能力,并吸引更多顾客。

“E-commerce is an economy of scale game,” Mr. Bittner said. “I don’t feel constrained in any way. I can go after this opportunity with the amount of firepower I need.”


Amazon so far counts Singapore as its only Southeast Asian market, though industry experts widely expect it will expand into other countries. An Amazon spokeswoman declined to comment.


Until recently, direct competition between Alibaba and Amazon has been rare. Amazon has a modest presence in China. Alibaba sells goods in the United States through its AliExpress platform but has backed away from further expansion efforts.


Southeast Asia could offer a test of their vastly different business models on neutral turf.


Amazon owns more of the inventory it sells. By contrast, most of Lazada’s sales come from outside vendors who use its platform as a digital middleman to reach customers. That approach, which keeps costs low, is similar to what Alibaba does in China. But in China, the company’s Taobao platform has been accused of offering counterfeit goods. Alibaba says it is working to fight fakes.


Alibaba has a long lead over Amazon and is building up its infrastructure across Southeast Asia. In Indonesia, for example, it took a minority stake in August in another online marketplace, Tokopedia. Experts say Amazon could fight back by offering online Western movies and television programs as it does in the United States, which could increase its appeal with younger customers.


Amazon stumbled in Singapore initially when the service proved too popular, forcing it to turn away customers. But since then the two companies have amped up their efforts to deliver more quickly to a growing group of customers.


At the RedMart warehouse on a recent visit, workers packed cartons — sometimes nine at a time — from bins holding piles of cereal boxes and canned fruits and vegetables. For those who offer ways to improve the process, merit awards include movie tickets, vouchers and cash of up to $1,000.


Competing in the market is likely to be expensive, thanks to customer price cuts and rebates in addition to expansion costs.


“It’s fabulous,” said Uma Parameswar, a Singaporean who works in fine arts management. Over two and a half years of using RedMart, she said, only once did she receive fruit that was less than fresh.

“太棒了,”从事艺术品管理的新加坡人乌马·帕拉梅斯瓦(Uma Parameswar)说。她说,在使用RedMart的两年半里,她只有一次收到了不那么新鲜的水果。

The enticements make her even more inclined to shop online. She says RedMart gives her a 5 percent discount on grocery bills plus discounts on using Uber’s ride-hailing and other services.


“It’s saved me probably $200 in the last three or four months,” she said. “It’s a fair bit.”