6 Unusual Things You Probably Didn't Know About Alibaba

Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) is widely known as the "Amazon of China" simply because it's the largest e-commerce company in China.

But Alibaba is much more than an online retailer. The company has been aggressively diversifying its revenue sources in an effort to become an ecosystem for customers to spend their money on everything from grocery delivery to concert tickets.

Alibaba's revenue grew an incredible 58% year over year for the fiscal year ended in March and it expects to post 60% revenue growth for the 2019 fiscal year. Because Alibaba is so large and its main source of revenue comes from its China-based online shopping platforms, it's not often that you hear about the company's side projects. So here are six of Alibaba's smaller initiatives that you've probably heard little or nothing about.

1. Alibaba partnered with New York Fashion Week

In the fall of 2017, Alibaba announced a new partnership with New York Fashion Week (NYFW).

As part of the deal, Alibaba selected two U.S. brands from NYFW to feature in its second annual "See Now, Buy Now" fashion show. This was valuable for U.S. brands because the fashion show is broadcast to Alibaba's more than 500 million monthly active users who can buy the clothing with a simple click during the broadcast. In return, NYFW agreed to showcase selected Chinese designers at its "NYFW: China Day" event in September 2018.

During the 2017 "See Now, Buy Now" show, consumers could click "Buy Now" to pre-order the fashion show's clothing through Alibaba's shopping platforms. The purchase was actually completed on Nov. 11 as part of Alibaba's annual Singles Day sales extravaganza. Last year, Alibaba did $25 billion in sales on that one day.

Alibaba has also partnered with other fashion weeks, including a recent partnership with Shanghai Fashion Week that allowed the event to use Alibaba's New Retail technology. This included the use of facial recognition as admission to events, as well as a foot traffic heat map to determine which brands and shows captured the most interest.

2. Alibaba has an Amazon Echo competitor

Alibaba's $73 "Genie X1" Chinese voice control assistant launched this past August. In the latest earnings call for the quarter ended in March, Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang said the company had sold more than 2 million units so far.

3. Alibaba Pictures released a short film starring Jack Ma

You might know that Alibaba bought a 60% controlling stake in a Hong Kong-based movie and TV production company back in 2014 and renamed it Alibaba Pictures.

But what you might not know is that Alibaba Pictures recently released a short martial arts film called Gong Shou Dao that stars none other than Alibaba founder Jack Ma. The film follows Ma as he competes with martial-arts masters around the globe and also stars famed martial artist and actor Jet Li.

4. Alibaba has two ticketing businesses

In a further push into the entertainment business, Alibaba purchased China's largest online entertainment ticketing platform Damai.cn in early 2017. Damai was founded in 2004 and sells tickets to theater shows, sporting events, concerts, and movies in China.

In addition, Alibaba Pictures has an online ticketing business known as Tao Piaopiao (piao means ticket in Chinese). The platform has been an official marketing and promotions partner for a number of hit movies, including Indian blockbuster Dangal and Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk. While Tao Piaopiao's revenue jumped 189% to $311 million in 2017, heavy investments and expenses related to it led to a loss of $55 million for the year.

5. Alibaba bought Pakistani e-commerce firm Daraz

Alibaba currently gets over 70% of its revenue from its core China commerce retail businesses. That's why it's working on its international growth, including the May 2018 purchase of Pakistani e-commerce firm Daraz to help its South Asia growth story. Founded in 2012, Daraz also operates in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Nepal.

6. Alibaba has car vending machines at its Hema stores

Ma believes consumers want a better system to test drive and buy cars. That's why Alibaba partnered with Ford (NYSE: F) to unveil China's first car vending machine in early 2018 in Guangzhou. The seven-level vending machine is called The Super Test Drive Center and offers three-day test drives to potential buyers.

To use the unstaffed car vending machine, consumers simply pick a model and pick-up time from Alibaba's shopping app and snap a selfie so their identity can be confirmed by a machine at the test drive center. If they like the car and have a good credit score, they can purchase the car by themselves in just a few minutes.

This is the first collaboration between Alibaba and Ford as part of a three-year partnership deal.

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John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Natalie Walters has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon. The Motley Fool recommends Ford. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.