Alibaba is much more than just China's e-commerce platform

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Alibaba is much more than just China's e-commerce platform

Amazon and Alibaba are racing toward the $500 billion valuation mark, as the battle between two of the world's largest retailers escalates in markets from India to the U.S.

While Amazon is focusing on expanding its e-commerce business in new markets, Alibaba is investing in companies around the world – ranging beyond e-commerce to also include virtual reality and social media.

If there's a transaction that involves any type of commerce, Alibaba wants to be the company that enables it. Amazon is often thought of as the place for consumers buying from businesses, but Alibaba's products are also pushing to enable business-to-business and consumer-to-consumer transactions.

Alibaba is first and foremost an e-commerce platform, but unlike Amazon, it has a complex and vast ecosystem, which includes Tabao, TMall, and Alibaba.com.

In addition to its direct e-commerce sites, it also started AliPay which allows users to pay through its own platform and AntFinancial, which gives financing to businesses.

Alibaba has more than 500 million people using its shopping apps every month and its scale is vastly expanding beyond China. It has operations in more than 200 countries.

The company set the record for the biggest IPO (initial public offering) in history, when it listed at the New York Stock Exchange in 2014.

This year, Alibaba became Asia's first company to exceed the $400 billion valuation mark.

Alibaba's investments include southeast Asia e-commerce platform, Lazada Group, bike-sharing business Ofo, India's electronic payments company Paytm, Israeli virtual reality start-up Lumus, and U.S. wearables firm Magic Leap.