Malaysia’s Multimedia Super Corridor inspired me: Alibaba founder

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The inspiration to form Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba was inspired by Malaysia's Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC), said Mr Jack Ma.

The Alibaba founder and executive chairman said he had read about MSC in a newspaper 20 years ago and found the idea inspiring.

"I thought, 'Wow, this is a genius idea. If Malaysia can do this, why can't China? Why can't I do this myself?' So Malaysia inspired me to create Alibaba," he said, during the launch of Alibaba Group's first South-east Asia office in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Mr Ma, one of China's richest men with an estimated wealth of US$43.1 billion (S$58.1 billion), said he witnessed how MSC impacted people and watched it grow.

MSC was conceived by Dr Mahathir Mohamad during his first tenure as Malaysia's Prime Minister from 1981 to 2003.

The landmark national initiative launched in 1996 was to develop a 15km by 40km area into a multimedia hub, encompassing Kuala Lumpur City Centre, Putrajaya and the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Earlier yesterday, Mr Ma met with Dr Mahathir at the premier's office in Putrajaya.

"He (Dr Mahathir) is a legend. Ninety-three years old but he knows so much about technology. After talking to him, I should read more books," said Mr Ma, who added that there is also nothing wrong with reviewing projects.

"There will be reviews. So what? Our companies have reviews every quarter. We need to have reviews all the time to determine what is right and what is wrong," he said.

Under Dr Mahathir, the new Malaysian government has said it would review projects that it deems unfavourable.

Red flags have been raised on two projects undertaken by China's state-owned companies, namely the East Coast Rail Line and two pipeline agreements worth RM9.4 billion (S$3.2 billion).

"Before I came here, I heard a lot of words about the China- Malaysia relationship from the business community. Just like 20 years ago, many people were worried. I think worrying cannot solve problems," said Mr Ma.

At the same event, China's Ambassador to Malaysia Bai Tian said Alibaba's e-world trade platform stands to benefit Malaysian farmers and youth.

"About 97 per cent of the businesses here are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). One fourth of the population are farmers.

"The presence of Alibaba here will definitely benefit SMEs, farmers and young entrepreneurs," he said.