Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent (BAT)
The BAT is the Chinese name given to the following IT companies giants in mainland China.
The BAT companies work along the same lines as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, etc.
They have controlled over 80% of the internet market in China.
There is a major difference between China and the rest of the world in the way business approaches the Chinese internet. Most Chinese business want to be part of an existing distribution channel and not create their own internet presences.
This is in part due to
- The histrionic concerns in publishing internet contents in China. By using Chinese platforms does not need ICP certification.
- Speed of implementation
- The cost of developing a website in China are 100% to 200% higher than USA or Europa.
- The lack of experience IT skills inside Chinese businesses.
- BAT overall control of the markets.
- The integration of the services: website, messaging, social media, payment processing, etc, all integrated
The BAT companies supply platforms for IT services, e.g. e-Commerce. The e-Mall services have been very successful as they bring together the on-line stores with the end to end payment and shipping of the goods.
All the companies started with a big success in the Chinese Platforms.
- Baidu search engine
- Alibaba B2B services
- Tencent Messaging
This gave each of these businesses very large user base with growth new services
- Baidu - marketing and IT services
- Alibaba – B2C services (Taobao, Tmall, etc)
- Tencent – Social media (WeChat)
Now each business now operates in each other market as their market share and success changes annually.
On the next page is a summary, not a complete list, of the key services supplied offer by the BAT companies.
When you look at this list you may concluded that Tencent is the stronger business or the business with the greatest potential. This was the case until Alibaba joint venture with UCweb to create Shenma. Shenma brings together traditional search engine with consumer products Tmalls. Historically if you are looking for a consumer product you would have to search each Tmall indivisible; Tmall, Taobao, Amazon, etc. Shenma goal is to index all consumer products, including oversea websites, and create a simple point to search for consumer products.
Please note; Not all the businesses in this list are owner by the BAT companies some of them are JVs, partners, etc. The BAT companies are been clever by creating groups of services which can make the best use their very large user base.
|Search Engine|| |
|Text message |
|Payment system ||Alipay|| |
|e-Commerce Tmall || |
|Email system ||QQ Mall|
|Maps||Baidu Maps||Tencent Maps|
|IT Services||Baidu Cloud||Tencent Cloud|
In some cases, they have created new services e.g. Taxis booking service like Uber. This resulted in only been able to get a taxi on-line for a while in Shanghai. In turn the software companies purchased the taxi companies. Many new companies were created using venture capital raised in the Chinese markets. Now there are many on-line taxi applications and too many taxis.
Form this example there are a few points of interest;
- The BAT companies have a great power in the China. If they move into a market, change will quickly follow
- If taking an IT service to China, do not enter into a market area in China where the BAT companies already have control of the market
- The BAT companies have great financial resources like and Google or Microsoft. These resources are used to purchase businesses when a company is taking / creating on-line market share
In histrionic rest of world about 75% of on-line purchases are performed directly on supplier websites. This is changing with growth of Amazon where one company is supplying the end to end purchasing, payment and shipping service. Amazon opening their third-party shopping platform suppliers has enabled greater growth.
This is the case in China. The BAT companies have created these store platforms from the outset which enabled Chinese business to sell to the end consumer and international business to sell the Chinese market. Somewhere between 60% to 70% of on-line business is traded through the BAT Company’s platforms.
18 months I made the following statement; “An opportunity exists currently for new platform entering into the Chinese on-line market. As a general point the costs selling in the BAT distribution channels is a lot higher than it is in European for the suppliers” Creation of Shenma, while I did not see platform working in the way in was implemented, it has taking this opportunity.
Often people see European products been sold on-line in China at 100% plus higher price. This may look like a good opportunity for overseas suppliers. In the on-line e-Mall stores in China is the net price show which includes, but limited to
- All local and international shipping
- Import duties
- Sales tax
- Bonded warehousing storage
- e-Mall transaction fees
- e-Mall listing fees
Also, the costs of the BAT companies store cost are high. The effect of this is to push price higher.
Our view, there is not a large margin to be made in the Chinese market. There is a large market return based around volume of sales.
The exception to this point, is where your business is the wholesalers or manufacture of the overseas product. As many overseas products in the Chinese e-Mall stores are purchased from overseas retail shops that is where additional margin is available.
We are now seeing a change in China. More businesses in the consumer market are to operate outside Tmalls through the Weixin platform (The name given to the WeChat platform). Weixin platform enable businesses to open an on-line store. This has seen high growth in last three years.
Access to China view, given the strong completive nature between the BAT companies and large number Chinese consumers with their drive to look for new product and services, is creating a far better completive on-line services in China then we see from Google, Microsoft, Amazon, etc.
Last modified: July 2019