The Middle East
Like Europe, the Middle Eastern market will be a foray into the unknown for Cainiao. But beyond seizing the opportunity to tap demand for e-commerce from Middle Eastern consumers, its presence in Dubai will also largely serve as a gateway between Europe and Asia. The city is an airport free zone, making it the most conducive to cross-border trade of any in the Middle Eastern region.
Emirates SkyCargo, the dominant carrier of the region, signed an MoU with Cainiao in June to offer its trans-Eurasian network as well as to distribute e-commerce to neighboring regions via its Middle Eastern spokes. However, there have been scant other details surrounding its progress at Dubai. At the time of the announcement, the carrier said that “further details of the tie-up will be announced progressively as they are developed by the two parties,” but there haven’t been any updates on either a timeline nor infrastructure plans since the news was released in June.
Since Jack Ma’s iconic announcement four years ago, we’ve witnessed Cainiao assemble a patchwork of partnerships with airports, carriers, forwarders and governments to make the 72-hour goal possible. Hub to hub, plans look slightly different, but in essence, follow the same theme of engaging the community to construct a comprehensive international logistics network.
Comparing this plan to the Alibaba’s competitor, Amazon – which has begun to take a different direction, increasingly pulling logistics operations in-house – one wonders if Alibaba may eventually go this direction, too.
“Business models can change,” Verhasselt said. “If we go five years back … brick and mortar was the last thing you wanted to get involved in. And then they [Amazon] changed their strategy, I guess because of the volume.” What tomorrow will hold is anyone’s guess, but it’s difficult to imagine how the bar could be raised any higher than anywhere in the world within 72-hours.
But we won’t put it past Cainiao.