1 Our plane from Beijing to Hangzhou left early in the morning for a day trip to visit Alibaba Group. In China all distances are huge. It's nearly 650 miles from Beijing to Hangzhou! Shanghai Air was an excellent airline.
2 I had last been in Hangzhou in 1980. At that time it was famous for its gardens and temples, and it was not the sprawling metropolis surrounded by productive farms, as it is today.
3 From the air, we saw miles of greenhouses and hundreds of acres of farms, producing fresh foods for the teeming, growing urban population in China.
4 In addition to verdant farms, there is a strict government policy requiring a lot of trees to be planted in all new construction areas.
5 The entrance to Alibaba was not hard to find. A single large rock is carved in relief with this amazing company's name and logo.
6 Orange is the Alibaba Group color. Alibaba was established in 1999 by 18 people led by Jack Ma, a former English teacher from Hangzhou. Since then, Alibaba has grown into a global leader in online and mobile commerce.
7 The headquarters are modern buildings built in a campus-like fashion, not unlike the American counterparts, eBay and Amazon.
8 This is a better view of the new offices. Jack Ma was first introduced to the internet while visiting a friend in Seattle. He decided to search the word "China" and he was curious that all search engines reported "no data" and "no China." He decided to change all that.
9 Almost 20 years later, Alibaba is China’s largest online retailer. Construction is ongoing for Alibaba. A large piece of land is quickly becoming filled up with structures. Very nice park-like gardens are also being planted on the campus.
10 There is a lake with all sorts of birds. In the upper right of this photo is a new portion of the campus. Now Chairman Jack Ma, fifth generation Hangzhou, is building his own office complex in the traditional Chinese style, using classic Chinese materials - granite, tile, and old wood, much of it reclaimed.
11 This is an inner courtyard within the headquarters. The spaces are modern, well lit, airy and green. There are lots of bridges spanning buildings and floors, both inside and out.
12 The average age of the employees appeared to be about 24. Here an exhibit was being installed using photographs of employees.
13 This is the COO Daniel Zhang. He and several others greeted us warmly, and filled us in on the present day workings of Alibaba.
14 Daniel Zhang and I were joined by Gary Clubb - Senior Business Development Manager, Jingming Li - CTO, Alipay (Alibaba Group), and Brian Wong - VP Alibaba Group. We posed for this group photo before being joined by Chairman Ma.
15 Patsy Pollack, MSLO's Senior EVP Merchandising and Dan Dienst, our CEO, also went to China with me.
16 Jack Ma is a forty-nine-year-old former school teacher. His dreams have become a fabulous reality and he is taking a portion of the company public in New York City very soon. It may be the largest IPO in recent history!
17 By the way, Ma chose the name Alibaba because when he asked several people from different nationalities if they knew who Alibaba was, everyone said, of course - Alibaba, open sesame! It is a very good name, indeed!