Alibaba is best-known as an e-commerce company, but it aspires to be much more. Some of its initiatives, including affiliate Ant Financial, have been very successful. Others, like its operating system Aliyun and mobile messaging app Laiwang, have yet to take off. Alibaba is continuing to build its portfolio of software services, however, with DingTalk, a collaboration and messaging app for small-to-medium sized businesses.
DingTalk, which launched this week and is currently available only in Chinese, first entered beta testing in December.
Making a product geared toward SMBs is a smart move for Alibaba because it can market DingTalk to the 8.5 million active sellers on its e-commerce sites. On the other hand, DingTalk has to compete with Tencent’s WeChat, which is China’s top messaging app with 468 million users.
WeChat is targeted mostly to individual users, but the app launched enterprise accounts, which have higher security and allow a company’s employees to collaborate on projects and share files including PDF documents, last fall. WeChat also offers accounts designed for marketers and brands.
Both Tencent and Alibaba, two of China’s top Internet firms, already have large ecosystems that they can tap into to draw users to new products. As Tech In Asia notes, however, DingTalk also faces competition from a roster of enterprise messaging apps that are also tailored for Chinese companies, including Maimai, WorkingIM, Fengche, Mingdao, and IMO.
Even though Alibaba has struggled to get its mobile software service to gain traction, it continues to plow money into related businesses, including its $590 million investment in smartphone-maker Meizu. If DingTalk manages to become more successful than Aliyun and Laiwang, it will help prove the viability of Alibaba’s aspirations beyond e-commerce.