Alibaba Group said Wednesday it hosted representatives from some 200 Japanese brands and manufacturers at a “kick-off meeting” of its new Japanese Merchandising Center.

The Chinese e-commerce giant announced plans to open the Tokyo-based center back in February to facilitate Japanese companies’ access to online retail in China and the rest of Asia. A joint venture between Alibaba and Japanese technology company SoftBank is managing the initiative. (SoftBank is a major Alibaba shareholder.)

Alibaba said the center provides companies assistance with areas like sales channel setup, marketing support and product selection to cater to Chinese customers.

“Japan is an important market for Alibaba’s globalization strategy, because it offers world-class, high-quality products in popular demand by Chinese consumers,” said Daniel Zhang, chief executive of Alibaba Group, which runs the Tmall, Tmall Global and Taobao platforms.

Alibaba, which has sparked controversy recently over its relationship with the International Anticounterfeiting Coalition, is busy enlarging its global footprint.

Last month it spent approximately $1 billion for a controlling stake in Lazada, a leading e-commerce platform in Southeast Asia. It is also expanding its operations in Europe. Last week it tapped a managing director of its newly established Netherlands office.

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