Late Exclusive丨Three years after Koala’s acquisition: The team has shrunk to less than 20 people, and products and technologies are no longer upgraded

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On the cover of Ali’s 2022 fiscal year report a few weeks ago, the ants in the “Ali Zoo” were gone, and so was the koala.

The disappearance of the former was foreshadowed and high-profile, the latter’s disappearance in the zoo was quiet, perhaps for a simple reason: it was too small.

In 2021, Ali’s business team of more than 400 people (excluding products and technologies) will operate the “Koala Haigou” app, which is opened by less than 1 million people every day and has an annual transaction volume of less than 3 billion yuan. For comparison, Tmall Global, which also does cross-border import business, will have a GMV (transaction value) of more than 60 billion yuan in 2021.

“LatePost” exclusively learned that as of July 2022, the Koala overseas business team has shrunk from more than 400 people in 2021 to less than 20 people, focusing on member e-commerce business mainly in the categories of mothers, babies and beauty. superior. Products and technologies are only maintained and not upgraded.

The contraction started in early October last year. In the same month, the mobile phone Tmall business department and the Kaola overseas purchase business department merged to form the FC business department, which belongs to the newly established B2C retail business group during the same period.

Liu Peng, the head of the business group, said in an internal letter that “FC means Future Clients For Customer”. Although no one knew what it meant at the time, some employees soon understood that the core mission of FC was “to be self-employed”. Specifically, it is to open self-operated flagship stores of big brands on Tmall.

Since then, although the mobile Tmall and Kaola Haigou apps have maintained independent operations, the status of Kaola Haigou has declined, its resources have been transferred to other departments of the FC division, and products, technologies and some operations have been transferred to mobile Tmall, responsible for The industry line that communicates with brand owners has also put more resources into the self-operated business “Maoxiang”. Starting from February 2022, the digital industry will no longer supply koalas. At the same time, the FC division has launched self-operated electrical appliances Business “Miaosuda Electric Appliances”.

A koala person likened and Tmall, a mobile phone, to “Sky Fire” and “Optimus Prime”. In the movie Transformers 2, the older Autobot Skyfire disassembles his parts to Optimus Prime to help him win the final battle.

Looking back on the more than 1,000 days that Koala entered Ali, many employees said that the decline of Koala is inevitable. This “fatalism” has two meanings: as the fate of the enterprise acquired by Ali and the fate of the cross-border import e-commerce industry, the fate of Koala intertwined.


Three years after Koala was acquired

On September 6, 2019, when Ali announced that it would acquire NetEase Kaola for $2 billion , employees of both companies were not too surprised. The rumors of the acquisition have lasted for several months, during which there have been various news that Pinduoduo participated in the acquisition and that the talks between Alibaba and NetEase collapsed.

At that time, Koala, which was owned by NetEase and had been established for 4 years, was the largest cross-border import e-commerce platform in China. In 2018, the GMV of koalas was close to 30 billion yuan. According to the research report of iiMedia Research, in the first half of 2019, Koala ranked first in the market share of cross-border e-commerce platforms in China with a market share of 27.7%. %.

The most important role of the $2 billion transaction is to block the possibility of other opponents buying koalas. At that time, Pinduoduo had just been listed for a year, and its annual sales were more than 500 billion yuan, which was one-tenth of Ali’s, but the growth rate was ten times that of Ali. The previous year (2018) around Double Eleven, Pinduoduo had It is listed as the first competitor by Ali, surpassing Meituan and Jingdong.

After the acquisition, Liu Peng, general manager of Tmall’s import and export business group, succeeded Zhang Lei as the CEO of Koala Seagoing. Nearly 2,000 NetEase Koala employees packed up and moved from NetEase on the south side of Qiuyi Road, Binjiang District, Hangzhou, to the one across the road. Ali Binjiang Park. A week later, they got Ali’s employee account.

In another year, they will be able to move into Alixixi Park and be neighbors with Taobao and Tmall. Many employees did not wait for this day. Within half a year after the acquisition, the original management of Koala resigned or transferred positions one after another, and many grassroots employees also left.

Unlike, AutoNavi and Youku, Koala failed to add new business forms to Ali, and it highly overlaps with Tmall Global. An Ali person concluded that NetEase has only a lot more e-commerce capabilities than Ali. Talents, e-commerce infrastructure, cross-border supply chains, bonded warehouses, etc., are all available on Tmall International.

Ali also has to address the history of koalas. For example, in the more than 4 years of NetEase, Koala has not established standardized supply chain audit standards and mechanisms. The entry of suppliers must be personally reviewed by the supply chain director, and the cycle is as long as one or two months, while Ali and only need one or two weeks.

A former Koala employee recalled that in 2018, every time a new supplier was introduced, he had to hold a computer and take materials to a director two levels higher than him for approval. Sometimes the director verbally passed the email, but did not return the email. The warehouse was almost out of stock before employees dared to ask. The director could only say apologetically, “I’m sorry, I forgot to reply.” The employee said that this seems to be human. The problem is essentially a mechanism problem, and all decisions are made by one person.

For Ali, the biggest value of koala is the brand and users. It brings an independent app with a certain user mind, a cute animal image, and a group of “black card members” users with high customer unit price and high repurchase rate. This may be the reason why Ali retains the Koala brand to operate independently.

During the NetEase period, Koala’s strategy swayed. At a meeting in 2018, Zhang Lei, the then CEO of, said, “I hope to make Koala a small and beautiful platform.” In the middle of the year, Kaola Haigou changed its name to “NetEase Kaola”, removing the word “haigou”, intending to enter the larger comprehensive e-commerce market, “It can be understood that it wanted to benchmark against Jingdong at that time.” Koala staff said. Six months later, Koala began to seek acquisition and investment opportunities in the market.

After entering Ali, Koala’s name changed back to “Koala Overseas Purchase”. In Ali’s many e-commerce layouts, Koala’s role only needs to refocus on the overseas purchase business. A year later, Kaola Haigou’s strategy turned to focus on member e-commerce. Liu Peng said at the time that Kaola wanted to target China’s 300 million new middle class. “We don’t need Kaola to become the second Tmall Global.”

In Liu Peng’s plan at the time, he deliberately separated Koala from Tmall Global. In terms of operation, Koala was mainly self-operated, while Tmall International was mainly third-party merchants; in terms of users, Koala Overseas Shopping was in-depth. , Tmall International pursues user scale. At that time, an important assessment indicator for the depth of users in Koala was the transaction amount of black card members.

By 2021, Koala COO Lv Jianmei (Meng Gu) will be promoted to CEO. She continued the strategy of membership e-commerce. Lv Jianmei is well-recognized internally. She served as the deputy general manager of Tmall Apparel and was the head of Tmall’s women’s clothing, underwear, and jewelry industries. Koala Haigou mainly focuses on beauty and maternal and child products, and beauty contributes more than 50% of GMV. An Ali person commented that Lu’s experience was in line with Koala’s user positioning as a “high net worth woman”, and she created a unique tonality for the Koala App in terms of vision and products.

As koalas become more beautiful, they are also becoming smaller, and the scale of business and users is shrinking year by year. A koala person said that in 2021, every time koalas set GMV and DAU targets for activities, they did not say how much the year-on-year increase was, but how much the year-on-year decline was smaller.

In mid-2021, Zhang Yong, chairman of the board of directors and CEO of Alibaba Group, will promote the “operational responsibility system” that had been piloted the previous year to more businesses. The management responsibility system requires that the president of BG (business group) not only be responsible for the business, but also manage finance, legal affairs, human resources, public relations, etc., similar to an independent company, and calculate profit and loss independently. Koalas are no exception.

In October of this year, Zhao Kun (empty), the former head of the intelligent service division of Alibaba Dharma Academy, took over the koala from Lv Jianmei as the head of the FC division and was in charge of the mobile phone Tmall division; Lv Jianmei was transferred to Head of Tmall Global.

The pursuit of profit has become Koala’s main goal. After Double Eleven, Koala began to control the price difference between members and non-members, trying to recall lost non-member users; at the same time, it increased the proportion of third-party merchants with higher gross profit. By May 2022, the transaction volume between Koala’s self-operated and third-party merchants will be nearly evenly divided.

After the Spring Festival in 2022, an unconfirmed rumor circulated within Koala: Koala must break even by the end of September, otherwise it will be shut down. The contraction hit employees earlier and more violently than expected. In May, Ali shrank as a whole, and Koala began to lay off staff. The employees were called into the conference room by HR and supervisors one after another, a few people were transferred, and more people left the 4th floor of Building 7 in Alixixi Park. Two months later, a small conference room that can only accommodate more than ten people is enough to accommodate all the current employees of Koala. “No one thought it would be cut to the scale it is today,” said a Koala employee.

The Koala Haigou App is still running, but the products and technologies are no longer upgraded. Its official Weibo has not been updated since June 1.

An industry that cannot exist independently

At the beginning of July this year, the mother and baby e-commerce platform “Miya” announced that the app would be shut down after two months. It was established in 2011 and was originally a Taobao store. In 2014, it was transformed into an imported mother and baby e-commerce platform. 2014 was a lively year for the cross-border import e-commerce industry.

The cross-border e-commerce policies released one after another have given enterprises many benefits of tax refunds and tax exemptions, and the industry has moved towards legal compliance. This year, Ali,, Suning, and Vipshop have successively launched cross-border import business. Miya received 3 rounds of financing in 2014, and the 60 million Series C financing led by H Capital set a record in the cross-border e-commerce industry. More than a month later, the record was broken by the US$100 million Series B financing of overseas shopping platform “Yang Dock”. At that time, the founder and CEO of Miya, Liu Nan, also lamented that the industry was “too hot” in 2014.

In 2016, the cross-border import e-commerce that started due to the policy has ushered in the restriction of the policy. The new tax policy for cross-border retail, known as the “48 New Deal”, was introduced. Cross-border imports of e-commerce goods will no longer be taxed according to the postal tax, and the preferential tax exemption within 50 yuan will be cancelled. As a result, the tax burden of important cross-border imported commodities such as maternal and infant, food, and health care products has increased.

In addition to policy changes, there are still many uncertainties in the cross-border import business: supply chain instability; prices are affected by exchange rate fluctuations; after-sales issues are more complicated, and so on. The return rate of e-commerce platforms is generally 10% to 20%. Cross-border imported goods are different from domestic general trade goods, involving cross-border tax issues, and cannot be repackaged for secondary sales. Processing returns means a lot of capital loss.

An Ali source said that if the cross-border import e-commerce platform wants to establish a “genuine” image, it must be self-operated. But everyone gradually discovered that being self-employed is like walking into a dead end. The bigger you do, the more you lose, and there is no scale effect.

At Miya’s media communication conference in August this year, Liu Nan said: “The golden age of vertical e-commerce has passed.” She believes that when the integrated e-commerce platform pushes the products that consumers need in front of it through algorithms, the vertical The advantages of e-commerce disappear.

Cross-border import e-commerce is a phased product. There are few start-up companies left, and cross-border e-commerce has become a business on a comprehensive e-commerce platform.

In the eyes of a cross-border e-commerce entrepreneur, the anchor point that China is the world’s largest consumer market in the future will not change. He said that those who freeze to death in winter are all with poor physique, and they have to look like they will spend the winter.

China’s cross-border import e-commerce industry has benefited from favorable policies. The entrepreneurship boom started eight or nine years ago. Today, the environment has been turned upside down. The market of “China buys the world” is very mature, and “China sells the world” is facing huge market opportunities. Yesterday , “LatePost” exclusively reported that Pinduoduo will launch a cross-border export e-commerce platform in September , and entering the global market is the best choice for Pinduoduo and almost all other Chinese Internet companies.

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