Double-11 shopping frenzy grips Malaysia
Rian Maelzer

Alibaba founder Jack Ma's first big, splashy event in Malaysia took place early in 2017, with the announcement that his company would make Kuala Lumpur the regional distribution hub for its Southeast Asian e-commerce subsidiary Lazada, as well creating the first overseas outpost of its Electronic World Trade Platform (EWTP) to help give Malaysian e-commerce players a boost.

The announcements and collaborations snowballed from there.

Ma announced that would hold a Malaysia Week promotion each year to showcase Malaysian products. Alibaba Cloud announced the creation of a data center in Malaysia to support the EWTP offshoot, the Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ). Alibaba Cloud also began collaborating with KL City Hall to use big data and the cloud to try to ease the city's traffic woes.

Then came an unexpected change of government in Malaysia, and the return to the top post of 93-year-old Mahathir Mohamad.

But in Mahathir - the man who established the Multimedia Super Corridor initiative in Malaysia in the late 1990s - Ma found another receptive audience. On his first visit to China after his re-election, Mahathir took Ma up on his offer to visit him at Alibaba headquarters in Hangzhou.

Not long after, Alibaba launched its new office in Kuala Lumpur, and has since begun a collaboration with Malaysia's Touch 'n Go to create an e-wallet service. Malaysians can now use that service to make purchases on Lazada during the Double-11 shopping festival.

Alibaba Cloud is helping the capital untangle its traffic jams. /CGTN Photo

Alibaba Cloud is helping the capital untangle its traffic jams. /CGTN Photo

Alibaba's subsidiary Lazada is undoubtedly the most popular e-commerce site in the country. And the Double-11 shopping festival has definitely caught on with Malaysians. Lazada and another popular e-commerce platform, Shopee, have been enthusiastically - and successfully - promoting Double-11 for the past couple of years. Figures suggest Shopee saw a 700 percent spike in sales over a normal day during last 11/11.

Lazada saw its record for sales from 2017 eclipsed in just nine hours on November 11 last year. If the figures are to be believed, the hottest selling products were the Australian powdered malt drink Milo, which sold in tonnes, and diapers, which sold in millions. Smartphones from China's Xiaomi were also in much demand.

Malaysians are busy browsing for Double-11 bargains. /CGTN Photo

Malaysians are busy browsing for Double-11 bargains. /CGTN Photo

It doesn't take much effort to find people who are aware of Double-11 and have been researching the best bargains as the big day nears.

"I've participated in it already" in previous years, said Wan SofaSyifa Wan Mohd. Ashraf, adding "I got an original handphone for half the normal price. I actually recommended my friends that they go online and buy stuff" during Double-11.

Lim Chin May said she is definitely planning to boost her spending on November 11. In fact she says she has many items "already in my cart just waiting for the day to come."

Malaysians may not buy much directly from Alibaba. But the Chinese tech and e-commerce giant is making a major mark in this country, by helping small and medium enterprises to increase their reach through Digital Free Trade Zone, working with tech start-ups through Alibaba Cloud, helping untangle KL's traffic jam and on November 11 each year, helping Malaysians buy stuff they may or may not need, but certainly want, at unbeatable prices.