By Chandran Nair, Global Institute for Tomorrow

Last week, Jack Ma called for a new “e-WTO” with the aim of helping small businesses get on the Internet, as the best hope in the fight against poverty. This appeal came after Alibaba’s largest ever “Singles Day” a week earlier, with almost US$14.3bn of merchandise sold in 24 hours. Alibaba’s social media accounts even reported that Premier Li Keqiang called CEO Jack Ma to wish him a successful day. “Singles Day” is now the world’s largest shopping day, dwarfing even the United States’ “Black Friday.

These are the latest manifestations of a worrying obsession with e-commerce and the Internet in Asia’s largest economies. In March, Beijing announced its new “Internet Plus” plan to expand Internet connectivity. Premier Li, when describing it, brought up the “mobile Internet”, “cloud computing”, “big data”, “intelligent manufacturing” and the “Internet of Things,” in a manner similar to business leaders in America. Nor is this digital obsession restricted to China. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook’s headquarters received as much, if not more, media attention as his address on sustainable development to the United Nations days earlierRead more

For decades, a combination of ill health and high rental prices in India’s capital, New Delhi, prevented Ramy Suneja, a fashion design graduate, from setting up her own business. Finally, three years ago, at the age of 60, she started selling her sari designs from home through e-commerce company Snapdeal (one of her creations is pictured left). Today she boasts a turnover of $1m a year.

Throughout India, from dusty one-shop operations to snazzier big brands, retailers are discovering the power of e-commerce. The market is currently tiny: online retail constitutes 0.4 per cent of India’s total retail market, according to Technopak, an Indian consultancy.

But it is growing rapidly as more of India’s 1.3bn population goes online, and its potential is huge. Read more

It’s not yet dinner time, but Single’s Day shopping holiday in China has already broken records for cyber consumption.

Alibaba, China’s largest e-commerce retailer with about 80 per cent of the total market, says it took only until 1:04pm today to sell Rmb19.1bn ($3.1bn) worth of goods, equivalent to everything it sold last year – and about twice what was sold last year on Cyber Monday in the US, the Monday after Thanksgiving.

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It’s curious to see where the three Soviet-born tycoons who sold their 50 per stake in TNK-BP to Rosneft this year will invest the proceeds of the deal. While some are tempted to stick to oil, Leonard Blavatnik, the chairman of Access Industries, has branched out into the booming Russian e-commerce industry, buying a stake in Lamoda, the online fashion retailer. Read more

The internet allows businesses to reach consumers way beyond their physical presence, as well as wider sourcing of materials and lots of other things.

But of the 40m small- and medium-sized businesses in India, only 500,000 are present on the web, according to Karim Temsamani, president of Google Asia Pacific. Read more

Only 40 per cent of Indonesians have a bank account, but over 90 per cent have a mobile phone. For both entrepreneurs and multinationals, that represents a big opportunity. The FT’s Ben Bland visits rural West Java to see how mobile commerce is spreading.

Poland’s slowing economy is driving people to their keyboards – not to waste time playing games but to save money by buying over the internet.

Although only about 40 per cent of Poles shop online, the number is growing by about 30 per cent a year, which makes Poland, along with the Czech Republic, the fastest growing e-commerce markets in the EU, according to Ecommerce Europe, an industry lobby group. The continent as a whole saw e-commerce grow by 21 per cent last year to €310bn. Read more

The online retail revolution that has sent Blockbuster, HMV and Comet to the wall in the UK is nowhere near as pronounced in Russia where digital shoppers account for only 2 per cent of total retail sales. But as increasing numbers of Russian consumers hook up to the internet, online sales are soaring and are expected to reach $25bn by 2014, according to McKinsey, the consulting company. Read more

It’s not every day that a bookshop is one of the biggest gainers on Brazil’s stock market. But late on Wednesday Saraiva’s shares were up over 7 per cent in late trading after rumours resurfaced about a possible acquisition by Amazon.

Despite naming itself almost 20 years ago after the vast river that runs through Brazil, Amazon is still struggling to establish itself in the Latin American country. Read more

With a few obstructions out of the way, as of Friday morning, foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail in India was made official policy. Walmart said that it expected to open its first store on the subcontinent in the next 18 months.

But one place you won’t find Walmart – or Tesco or Carrefour or any of the other retail giants expected to enter India now – is online. On Thursday, the government announced that foreign retailers would not be able to engage in e-commerce in India. Read more

Amazon this week launched a Kindle store in India to woo the country’s huge – and increasingly literate – population away from print and into the world of the e-reader.

The company said in a press release that it will sell the Kindle for Rs6,999 ($127) at the Tata Group’s Chroma electronics stores. The company said its store would be the largest e-book store in the country, with titles from best-selling Indian authors like Chetan Bhagat, Ashwin Sanghi, Ravinder Singh and Amish Tripathi. Read more

Still pining for those China-like growth rates in Brazil? Not satisfied with 0.2 per cent GDP expansion? Well perhaps it’s time you tried Brazilian e-commerce.

The industry is expected to be worth R$23.4bn ($11.6bn) by the end of this year – 25 per cent more than 2011, according to e-bit, a local consultancy service. In 2011 e-commerce grew 26 per cent and in 2010, a whopping 40 per cent. Read more

Google may be getting into a new regulatory tangle in India -  this time over advertising for matrimonial websites.

Indian media reported on Monday that New Delhi has launched an antitrust probe of the US internet group, looking at the alleged abuse of its dominant market position in online advertising. Read more

By Kathrin Hille and Patti Waldmeir

It is no secret that it is no longer that cheap to make things in China. But now, it is becoming expensive to sell there, too.

Neiman Marcus, the US multi-brand luxury retailer, plans to enter China via e-commerce rather than traditional bricks-and-mortar. And it is not the only one. A report due to be published on Friday shows that the spiraling cost of doing business in the country is driving other foreign companies with new products away from traditional retailers and into the arms of e-commerce firms. Read more

As more and more of the world gets internet access, it’s tempting to measure progress in emerging economies by the number of people online. Is there a better or more revealing way of measuring relative strengths? How about the internet economy as a proportion of GDP?

A report released on Monday by the Boston Consulting Group, The $4.2 Trillion Opportunity, does exactly that for the G20, and has a few surprising insights along the way. Read more

China may be the world’s fastest-growing e-commerce market but actually making any money has been a big problem for companies in the fiercely competitive sector.

360buy, the country’s second-largest online retail firm by transaction volume, has just made a shock move that promises to make that challenge even tougher: it plans big investments in transport to solve long-running logistics and delivery troubles. Read more

The E-Commerce China Dangdang Inc. website is displayed on a computer in Beijing, China, on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010.Multinational companies are never slow to complain about what they say is an unfair playing field in China: when Beijing gives Chinese companies a leg up, in the form of government procurement or indigenous innovation policies that favour locals, foreign corporates are the first to say so.

But according to the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, which today published a report on the China consumer market with management consultants Booz&Co, MNCs are missing a trick or two, when it comes to e-commerce. Read more