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Alibaba exec bullish about potential for merchants to adopt Gen AI tools

Chinese tech giant Alibaba’s international e-commerce unit is tapping generative AI-powered tools to help cross-border merchants with translation, content creation and product returns, group vice president Kaifu Zhang said.

Speaking on stage at the Reuters Next Conference in Singapore, the executive, who heads Alibaba International Digital Commerce’s artificial intelligence (AI) initiative, said he was bullish on AI’s potential for the company, even in the face of increasing tensions between China and the US.

“China is pretty much on par with the US in the rate of (AI) innovation,” said Zhang, who highlighted the global developments made in China and Europe in open-source AI technology.

The sprawling tech conglomerate has been grappling with how to make its global marketplaces, including AliExpress and Lazada, more competitive after restructuring its international e-commerce unit into a standalone business.

The advantages of an early head-start have faded in recent years, with sales and growth outshone by China-founded peers Shein and NASDAQ-listed PDD’s Temu.

According to Zhang, Alibaba International Digital Commerce Group now has 300 million consumers yearly and over one million merchants around the world.

The unit has become one of Alibaba’s brightest growth areas. Earnings grew 44 per cent in the October to December period from a year earlier.

  • Reporting by Fanny Potkin, Sameer Manekar, and Alessandra Galloni in Singapore. Editing by Jan Harvey, of Reuters.
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