Amazon could finally be getting around to launching its small business lending program in China, putting it on a collision course with home-grown juggernaut Alibaba.
The company is seeking a manager “with end-to-end responsibility for scaling operations and partner programs in a new strategic initiative in China” for its lending arm, according to a June 19 job listing.
China is by far the biggest e-commerce market in the world, making it a battleground for companies racing to establish global empires. Chinese consumers spent $1.1 trillion on online retail channels last year, 32 percent more than 2016 and more than double the U.S. figure. Seattle-based Amazon has found the Chinese market hard to crack, mostly because of competition from online retailers Alibaba and JD.com. Despite more than a decade there, Amazon has less than 2 percent of the market, according to iResearch.
So the lending program could be a way for Amazon to turn the tide by encouraging merchants to use its platform. Amazon began extending credit to small business owners in 2011, using sales data to trigger invitations for financing that could fuel growth. The company’s race to lock up sellers in China gained urgency last week after Google said it plans to invest $550 million in JD.com as part of a strategic partnership.
While Amazon announced plans to expand the lending program to China and seven other countries back in 2015, a press release two years later said it had only issued loans in the U.S., Japan and the U.K. By then, Amazon had made more than $3 billion in short-term loans ranging in size from $1,000 to $750,000.
Amazon has a voracious appetite for talent in China. It has 476 listings for jobs there, from sales to software and hardware development. Applicants for the new lending position should be fluent in English and Mandarin and have a background in consumer credit or small business finance.
An Amazon spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.