Alibaba Pictures buys India's TicketNew

Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group. (AFP)

Alibaba Pictures Group has bought a majority stake in Indian online ticketing operation TicketNew. The move is its first expansion in the sector outside China.

Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Alibaba Pictures, the movie and technology arm of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, is committed to investing a further $18 million in the business.

Chennai-based TicketNew was established in 2007 by Ramkumar Nammalvar and claims to cover some 3,000 theaters in 300 Indian cities, largely in the south of the country. That puts it in competition with market leader BookMyShow and others.

The Indian ticketing sector has been closely watched by Chinese groups, which regard it as a market several years behind China in terms of technology and adoption. Some 80% of cinema tickets in China are sold online, mostly via mobile devices.

Online commerce in India received a big boost at the end of the year when the national government canceled higher denominations of bank notes. That move sparked a process known as demonetization - a decreased reliance on cash and the increased use of credit cards and stored value systems.

Earlier this year, Alibaba agreed to invest $177 million in the online retail arm of Indian tech startup PayTm. And in March, Alibaba Pictures Group announced the purchase of Chinese ticketing firm Damai, which it said would be integrated with its existing Tao Piao Piao ticketing platform.

Alibaba Pictures, which has a share listing in Hong Kong and Singapore separate from the Alibaba parent company, is also investing and producing movies and TV series.