E-commerce giant Alibaba has announced assistance for merchants affected by the 2019-nCoV coronavirus outbreak in China.
The assistance takes the form of offering waivers or reductions of service fees, providing financial assistance, as well as other special assistance in six major areas:
- Reducing operational cost on Alibaba’s platforms Taobao and Tmall.
- Providing financial support by waiving or lowering interest rates on Ant Financial.
- Subsidies for delivery and logistics personnel.
- Providing flexible job opportunities via an employee-sharing scheme.
- Free tools for digitisation of enterprises.
- Remote working management for businesses.
Merchants on Taobao and Tmall will have their platform service fees for the first half of 2020 waived, as well as receiving a free subscription to Wangpu, an online tool kit to revamp the online storefront. Cainiao, Alibaba’s logistics network, will also waive the warehouse rental fee for two months for new merchants. It will also give increased allowance to its couriers
Other measures include reduced-interest loans from affiliate Ant Financial’s MYBank unit worth RMB20 billion. Preferential terms will be given for merchants in Hubei Province, the epicentre of the outbreak. They will be offered one-year loans on a zero interest rate basis for the first three months and a 20 percent discount on rates for the remaining nine months.
In an open letter to its merchants, Alibaba stated, “[M]ore than ever, this is the time when millions and millions of consumers need our services. We are fighting two battles simultaneously. In the battle against the virus, we remain vigilant in our effort to help contain the outbreak. We want ensure all those infected receive effective treatments and the healthy individuals to stay away from the virus. Now, the second battle is upon us: Economic development must continue, lives must go on and small-and-medium sized enterprises must survive.”
“We must ensure the cogs and wheels of our economy and commerce are turning so production lines can resume and the supply chain can flow. We must make sure the service sector is ready to re-enter the race and that funds get into the hands of the enterprises that need it. We need make sure there are ways for the healthy individuals to return to school and their work. The scientific breakthroughs and societal improvements in the past 17 years mean we are equipped with more experience and innovative ways to win the battle this time around,” the letter continued, referring to the SARS scare in 2003.
Workers around China returned to offices and factories on Monday after an extended Chinese New Year break, which saw the novel coronavirus cause more than 43,000 infections and 900 deaths. Alibaba’s measures aim to increase the cash flow position of merchants, who have seen a plunge in orders as a result of the coronavirus quarantine. Chinese regulators have urged banks to lower the interest rates and extend loans to targeted companies that have been affected by the outbreak.