For those involved in global sourcing, one of the dirty secrets of the trade is how bad most supplier search sites actually are. While many of these directories had the chance to build out community as well as commerce from the start -- through features such as supplier performance and quality rankings -- almost all chose to become global online yellow-pages of sorts which make it impossible to discern quality suppliers from second-rate trading houses. One of these directories is Alibaba, a site that fancies itself the hub of China sourcing. But anyone engaged in China sourcing on a regular basis knows it is about as useful as the spam email one gets for months after going to a sourcing conference in Asia.
But don't tell Wall Street this. According to news wires in Asia, "Alibaba.com won regulatory approval to list shares on Hong Kong Stock Exchange and last week ... The IPO could bring Alibaba an estimated $1.5B, the second largest internet IPO in history only after Google’s $1.67 debut ... According to Bloomberg.com, Alibaba's IPO will value the company at 54 times its estimated 2008 profit." Let's hope that with the money that Alibaba raises, that they can actually become useful to global sourcing professionals by providing new solutions that provide details on supplier financials, performance and quality -- rather than serving up advertisements and listings which make it impossible to know if you're dealing with a world-class manufacturer or a two-bit trading company. Hat-tip: Alan Buxton.