UAE, UAE, ABU DHABI - Telecoms & IT
President, Alibaba Cloud Intelligence
Selina Yuan is a Vice President of Alibaba Group and President of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence International, a leading cloud platform in Asia and top three in the world. She leads the international division of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence Group, heading a global team across APAC, Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East, and enabling cloud technology for millions of customers around the world. She brings more than 20 years of experience in leading and growing technology businesses globally.
Alibaba Cloud recently made a strategic decision to expand its operations and widen its spectrum of services. What signal does this send regarding the direction of the company in the Middle East?
Alibaba is the first global public cloud to have a data center in the Middle East. We have dedicated teams in the UAE to explore partnerships with suitable organizations. Strategically, our aim is to have the UAE as the center of our Middle East and Africa operations.
What specific conditions do you assess when you approach this market?
Throughout the region, the internet and business start-up activity is very active. There are many technological innovations taking place here. Alibaba Cloud has developed a clear ecosystem strategy for its business operations in this market. An integral part of this plan will involve building meaningful partnerships with more local players. We consider the UAE as the gateway to the rest of the region, and the Middle East is truly the bridge to territories further afield like Africa. We are fortunate to have many local partners here and have been steadily building our operations at a healthy pace. Every year, we have programs for our partners and start-ups. For example, we have a program called Create where developers and start-ups can share their creative ideas. There is an abundance of creative ideas and vision across the country. There are talented people within the local technology sector, which is a boon for our business and the entire ecosystem.
What is your strategy for engaging with local partners, and how is Alibaba leveraging its global capabilities to bring solutions to the UAE?
In terms of partnerships, this is something we consider to be our future. Alibaba is a platform company, and we are heavily involved in building ecosystems. We view the cloud business as a long-term endeavor; however, we cannot build this solely by ourselves, and healthy partnerships are crucial. In regards to digitalization, different levels of partnerships are required, such as system integrators, ISPs, digital consultants, and more. It requires different types of collaboration. The Alibaba Group can bring its own proven technologies and utilize these capabilities within this domain. Moreover, Alibaba is undeniably one of the biggest retailers in the world. Our experience in retail manufacturing and the internet allow us to approach the Middle East from a favorable standpoint. Consequently, these experiences have shown us that by partnering locally, we can localize packages for local customers.
What would you like to see happen in the region from a policy perspective, and how do you see your business developing in the next five years?
From a policy perspective, we have observed positive changes and a receptive business environment. We would like to see these positive adjustments across the ecosystem continue. Interestingly, we launched a joint lab with Khalifa University to nurture talent and enable innovation. Furthermore, we also launched the first clean energy-AI cooperation lab in 2018. Our research has also given us the opportunity to contribute academically to the study of geographic conditions for oil and gas. The traditional approach to the cloud is working with internet and data companies. However, we have seen with cloud computing and big data that technology should be more inclusive. It should be applicable to traditional industries, like oil and gas, manufacturing, and retail. Right now, our strategy is heavily focused on internationalization efforts. We are also deepening our presence across the African continent. Our operations in Africa allow us to provide local training and inhouse-certified programs in many nations in Africa. Over the next five years, we anticipate having a sustainable and thriving business across both the Middle East and Africa.