“My recent words about counterfeit goods [were taken] out of context.”
In a statement on WSJ, Jack Ma clarified that Alibaba has “zero tolerance for those who rip off other people’s intellectual property”.
Last week, Jack Ma courted controversy after Bloomberg reported his comments on counterfeit goods at Alibaba’s investor day in Hangzhou.
“The problem is the fake products today are of better quality and better price than the real names,” he said.
To this, Cao Lei, director of the China E-Commerce Research Center in Hangzhou had responded, “for some individual cases what he’s saying might be true, but it’s wrong to generalise the phenomenon.”
The estimated US$500 billion worth of fake goods threatens to spiral out of control thanks to the rise of e-commerce. Having an online marketplace means no logistical or marketing barriers to products, which facilitates the distribution of fake goods.
A Problem Of Integrity Instead of Regulation
Jack Ma has said that it is the “same factories” and “same raw materials” producing the fake goods, and puts the blame on the factory bosses.
“Much of the time, the same factory produces for big-name clients works overtime using the same equipment and materials to make similar products”, WSJ reports.
Last month, Jack Ma spoke about “honour” in a video to Honour International Symposium 2016, placing an emphasis on building trust in order to have a successful company.
Trust is something Jack Ma consistently talks about, attributing it as an essential quality that led to Alibaba’s success. Trust from his colleagues, from his clients, and his investors. In this sense, counterfeiting is the contradiction of trust, and is thus a concern to him.
Fake Goods Are A Social Issue
Jack Ma spoke to over 300 anti-piracy division employees earlier this year, saying that their purpose was “not only to solve Alibaba’s counterfeiting issues, but also China’s counterfeiting issues”.
Ma criticised the prevalence of “falsehoods in society” such as “lies, fake diplomas, match-fixing and fake news” in his speech, saying that such things “naturally leads to counterfeit goods”.
In December 2015, China Daily reported that the anti-piracy division has expanded to 2,200 full-time employees, with 3,000 additional volunteers. ex-Apple cybercrime and counterfeits investigator Matthew Bassiur was also recently appointed as head of Alibaba’s Global IP Enforcement in Jan 2016.
“Which is why I want to say this: counterfeit goods is not only ‘Alibaba’s problem’, but it is a problem affecting China as well, as it influences the mindsets of our next generation. If you thought that someone will simply steal and profit off your own ideas, would you still work so hard to innovate?”
Civic-Mindedness Will Lead to Success
Even in the age of the internet, connectivity is no replacement for community, it seems. Jack Ma’s attitude towards societal problems is visionary as he wants to root out why fake goods exist.
Beyond speaking about Alibaba’s problems, Jack Ma expresses his desire to continue fighting against fake goods. “Let’s not forget that this is a long-term crusade,” Jack writes on WSJ. “There are no easy or short-term fixes, because it is a battle against human greed.”
Jack Ma’s position on working for yourself coincides with his civic-mindedness. In an interview in South Korea’s KBS World, he advised entrepreneurs working for themselves to “work for society. if you want to work for yourself, think about the others…because only when other people are successful, and other people are happy, you will be successful, and you will be happy.”
Feature Image Credit: Forbes.com