So I attended an Alibaba E-Commerce Masterclass with NTUC LearningHub

By August 28, 2018Current

How come set up online store also need to learn one ah?

That was my first thought when I was asked if I was interested to attend the Alibaba Masterclass Series organized by NTUC LearningHub and the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i).

“So is it they’re gonna teach you how to shop on Taobao?”

“Online shopping need to learn one meh?”

“If want to sell things you can just sell on Carousell what.”

These are just some of the remarks I heard from friends when they heard that I’m attending the course, which I can understand why.

In recent years, we have seen how the explosion of the E-commerce has changed the way we shop. We now order items that we never thought we would buy online without trying in real life. We also see online transactions that run into hundreds and thousands of dollars are not uncommon (think travel).

Many businesses and individuals have jumped on the digitalization bandwagon and starting selling online. More and more bricks-and-mortar businesses are adopting the omni-channel strategy. We have also seen E-commerce startup founders score big with successful platforms and become multi-millionaires.

Yet for every one successful E-commerce venture, there are probably hundreds or even thousands that have failed. There must be a good reason why, right? And that alone is enough to plant a curious seed in me.

Did I mention that the trainers from this Masterclass are from the Alibaba Business School and each armed with at least 10 years of E-commerce experience? You know what they say – In order to be the best, you must learn from the best.


The low-down on the Alibaba Masterclasses

Well, obviously, I can’t reveal the details taught throughout the 3-day course, but here’s a quick Q&A for those who are interested to check out these Alibaba E-Commerce Masterclasses. Yes, it’s important we invest in ourselves and go for training and up-skilling to stay relevant in this fast-changing era of digitalization.

What are the Alibaba Masterclasses available?

There are currently two Masterclasses you can choose from: (1) Global E-Commerce Insights and the Future of E-Commerce, and (2) The Nuts and Bolts of E-Commerce Platforms.

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How legit is the Alibaba Business School?

That’s like asking how legit Jack Ma, billionaire and founder of Alibaba, is.

The Alibaba Business School is a university established by the Alibaba Group and Hangzhou Normal University of China in 2008. Under the One Belt One Road initiative, it is training and certifying more E-Commerce talents around the region and Singapore was the first country to launch these Masterclasses.

Mr Nick Zhou, Southeast Asia Programme Director of Alibaba Business School, said,

“Everyone wants to become Jack Ma. But we want to help more Singaporeans focus on their own success story, not just Jack Ma’s story.”

What about NTUC LearningHub? Is it legit?

NTUC Learning Hub is a social enterprise under NTUC and it is also the largest continuing education centre in Singapore.

Initially set up in 1982 to help train large numbers of workers in basic computing skills, it has evolved to an adult learning centre that provides training courses to help Singaporeans stay relevant in the workforce.

These days, LearningHub works with the best-of-breed partners to bring relevant courses to train Singaporeans with skills for future jobs. For instance, they partner Alibaba Business School to train and certify E-Commerce talents and Amazon Web Services to equip working adults with cloud computing literacy skills.

Where are the Masterclasses conducted?

They are conducted at the Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability (e2i). The nearest MRT station is the Jurong East MRT Station.

What’s your motivation to attend classes at e2i?

What I absolutely love about the course being held at e2i (even though I live in the North-East) is that e2i is of walkable distance via connecting shelter to the malls like IMM Building, Westgate and JEM. Spells SHOPPING!


Also, did I tell you that they served breakfast, lunch and tea-break for all three days of my course? They’re certainly spoiling us with all the good food!

Pssst, that’s just the breakfast ok! I didn’t manage to get photos of the full spread for lunch and tea-break because everything’s lapped up so quickly!

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You know, they’ve set such a high benchmark for external courses now that I can foresee myself expecting to be as well-fed as when I am attending other courses now. Spoil market hor? But me likes!

How much did you have to pay for the course fee?

With all the food catering, you would think that the course fee would probably cost a bomb. Nope, not at all if you’re a Singaporean!

So it’s S$642 and I could use my UTAP (Union Training Assistance Programme) since I’ve the silver NTUC membership card. UTAP is a training benefit for NTUC members to defray training cost.

How can I ensure that it’s going to be money well spent? Who are the trainers?

As mentioned earlier, the trainers come armed with at least 10 years of E-Commerce experience. Joseph, our trainer on the first day, had 15 years of E-commerce experience in China while Selena, our trainer for the second and third days, has 13 years’ experience in cross-border E-commerce.

Both had also worked in the Alibaba Group for 5 years before venturing out on their own. Today, they both run very successful E-commerce enterprises.


My own takeaways

Aside from picking up new knowledge, what I like about attending external courses with speakers from overseas is that we get to be exposed to the outer world instead of living in our own bubble. It broadens horizons as the trainers share their stories and challenges in bigger markets with far more intense competition. It kindda reminds me to stop my navel–gazing.

One particular story that Selena shared left a very deep impression.

Nope, it’s not the story of how she’d gifted her employees with flashy luxury cars when they reach a certain length of service. She buys them BMWs by the way. GASP! Although that certainly caused a stir amongst us and we even had people asking jokingly how to apply to work for her, haha.

So the shocker that Selena shared with us was how she expects her employees to work 6 days per week, from 9am to 9pm during their first year of employment. There are also no staff benefits or other any entitlements such as annual or medical leave. Hehe, the people who were previously asking her how to apply were so quiet after hearing this.

“Welcome to the real world (outside).”


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I guess there are no shortcuts to success, and there are very good reasons why China’s now so progressive and advanced. Yes, if you think China’s good for only cheap low quality stuff, then you’re wrong.

And their people are so driven that every other person’s taking night classes to upskill or second-skill. And the other half of the workers are fighting for opportunities to do more at work so that they can learn more on-the-job.

Just when we Singaporeans fuss and complain about things like not having enough annual leave to take our 3 holidays in a year, about the occasional overtime and what-not, there are a lot of people out there who are willing to sacrifice all these and put themselves out there in order to do better in life, or to find their ikigai.


I can almost understand why some SMEs prefer hiring foreigners who are more hardworking, less demanding, and yet can produce work of the same quantity and quality, if not better. Fair enough, if I were in their shoes, I would probably do the same too. I mean, these are SMEs and not community chest leh.

While I appreciate that the Ministry of Manpower have tightened rules on hiring foreigners in a move to protect jobs for Singaporeans, perhaps we need to “wake up our idea”, be more proactive and always keep abreast with changes, continually pick up new skills and making ourselves relevant.

Yes, it’s always easier to blame the others, but your life is what you make it.

(Featured image via


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Joey Wee

Author Joey Wee

I am nice, most of the time!

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