meets the needs of Chinese SME treasuries CFO Maggie Wu talks about the evolution of the online marketplace into a SME treasury tool.
Maggie Wu
Maggie Wu

Once just a simple online bulletin board, has morphed into a major digital marketplace and an indispensible tool to corporate treasuries across China.

Last month, announced the creation of China's first small business credit rating system and established a Rmb1 billion ($147 million) business integrity insurance fund. The company's close relationship with small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) has allowed it provide banks with an accurate credit history for those that are looking to borrow. It also acts as a guarantor for banks.

"We are a service provider to small businesses," said Maggie Wu, chief financial officer of "We not only care about our own treasury management; there are 615,000 paying members on's platform and we also aim to help small businesses with their treasury management." She explained that 70% to 80% of the site's customers have financing needs but do not have the credit rating or reputation to borrow from banks.

As CFO, Wu is responsible for's finance team and oversees its SME financing programmes. She joined the company in July 2007, just in time to work on its October 2007 initial public offering that raised $1.5 billion in the world's second largest technology IPO at the time.

"The first generation of our company's leaders brought the company to a decent size business before the IPO," she said referring to the team of founder Jack Ma. "We, the second-generation leaders, aim to take the business to the next level. The first 10 years of were spent building a marketplace where small businesses could meet with each other. For the next 10 years, we will not only help small business to 'meet' at Alibaba but also to help them to 'work' at Alibaba."

Revenue at the company largely comes from membership fees. It has a multi-tier fee system determined by where the customer is based. Annual fees for companies from outside China start at Rmb20,000 for a standard membership and rise to Rmb50,000 for a premium membership. Chinese members pay starkly lower rates, ranging from Rmb1,688 to Rmb2,800. maintains a simple treasury. "We are still at an early stage of development; you can say we are still a start-up," said Wu. "Our expenses are mainly in the form of sales and marketing expenses, product development costs as well as general administration costs. With the help of more than 100 finance staff, we have managed the costs and expenses very well and supported significant growth in the business."

With its place in the Chinese sourcing community already cemented, is only expected to grow. Earlier this year it was named one of Credit Suisse's 27 Great Brands of Tomorrow, a distinction Wu plans to build on. "It's an honour that we have been named one of the great brands of tomorrow," she said. "However we still see ourselves at the beginning since [global] market penetration is still very low for e-commerce. At, we have a vision to provide services to tens of millions of small businesses all over the world in the next decade."

Domestically still has significant space to grow. With an estimated 400 million SMEs in China, the company's market penetration is only about 10% according to Wu. By continuing to build on its successful online marketplace, while adding new services such as the small business credit rating system, hopes to one day reach the operational needs of every small business in China.

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