Salesforce, Alibaba, and China: Is an Enterprise Superapp the Goal?

August 4, 2022

I read an announcement about a tie up among Salesforce, Alibaba, and whoever is over-seeing the high profile online outfit. “Salesforce Shutters Hong Kong Office, Leans on Alibaba in China” reports:

As a result of its tightened partnership with Alibaba, Salesforce is “optimizing our business structure to better serve the Greater China Region” and “opening new roles while eliminating some others,” the spokesperson said. The company’s career page shows it’s currently hiring a product management director and a senior software engineer in the southern Chinese city Guangzhou, where it placed its tech team.

The cited article points out:

Salesforce’s interest in China lies in serving international businesses localizing in China, but it can’t do it alone due to the country’s intricate regulatory restrictions.

What will Alibaba do?

Alibaba will be taking over the firm’s sales in mainland China and Hong Kong, while Taiwan will fall under the management of its Singapore office…

Several observations:

  1. Like Oracle, Salesforce is taking steps to make sure it is able to operate in some acceptable way in China
  2. The technology for these deals is probably sealed in a quantum secure container so that “partners” are unable to learn what’s in the black boxes. (Well, that’s the hope?)
  3. China faces some challenges, and it is possible that Alibaba’s overseers could make helpful suggestions which make this tie up less or completely unattractive.

What happens if Alibaba integrates Salesforce functionality into its apps and services? Will we have a commercial superapp purpose built for China and companies permitted to operate in the Middle Kingdom?

Net net: Nah, just “lean on” and lean in.

Stephen E Arnold, August 4, 2022


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