Jack Ma steps down from Alibaba; ‘Big Challenge’ for company’s uncertain future

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Jack Ma, Alibaba Group Chairman, will resign from the Chinese company today, i.e. 10th September 2019. He’ll be leaving his handpicked legatee a daunting task of steering $460 billion juggernaut at a time when the market for its e-commerce centric business has slowed drastically.

Jack, who will turn 55 this Tuesday, will be holding center stage at his farewell party in Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center Stadium, the 80,000 capacity stadium. The celebration will be accompanied by music and celebrity performances. However, attendees are hoping to get clues on how Alibaba will function under his successor, Daniel Zhang. 

Daniel Zhang
Daniel Zhang

An accountant by profession, Daniel’s personality marks a sharp contrast with CEO Zhang’s character. CEO Zhang’s flamboyant style and charismatic personality made him the most well known Chinese entrepreneur. Zhang, a former English teacher, founded the company 20 years ago in a tiny shared apartment in Hangzhou, China.

Ma said of Zhang in 2018 in a message announcing his appointment, “He has the logic and critical thinking skills of a supercomputer, a commitment to his vision, the courage to wholeheartedly dare to take on innovative business models and industries of the future.” 

One of the most challenging task for Zhang would be to find new areas of growth in the matured Chinese e-commerce economy, said analysts. Recently, Alibaba had announced an investment of worth $2.7 billion in Kaola, a luxury goods retail platform and a music streaming company that partly showcases its flexibility in adopting new business strategies. China’s online retail sales growth halved to 17.8% in the first half of 2019 from the 2018 mark of 32.4%, according to the national statistics office as reported by Reuters.

 

Will Zhang succeed in continuing Ma’s legacy?

The stepping down announced by Ma, the previous year, was perceived as an unusual move as it is uncommon for a founder of such a transformative tech giant to retire this early. Under his leadership, Alibaba has grown to become the most valuable company in Asia. It has a current market capitalization of $460 billion. It has over 100,000 employees and has expanded into other sectors like financial services, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence.

According to Forbes, Jack Ma is China’s richest man with a net worth of $38.4 billion. Post-retirement, he plans to spend more time on education and philanthropy. He will continue to remain the member of Alibaba’s partnership, a corporate governing body of 38 individuals that is separate from the board of directors. Ma’s success has become a legend in China, and many people worship him like God in their homes. Despite all the success, he has faced great setbacks internationally, making MoneyGram’s $1.2 billion acquisition the biggest failure. 

Alibaba’s subsidiary, Taobao, a Chinese online shopping website, has been accused by multiple overseas luxury goods sellers of being a hub for fake products. It is on a U.S. list of “notorious markets” for goods that violate American intellectual property and is the main source of conflict in the rising trade war between Beijing and Washington. Earlier this year, Ma faced criticism nationwide for urging tech company employees to work nightshifts and on weekends. 

While Zhang’s take on Alibaba is yet to be seen, Tuesday’s extravaganza pledges to offer a spectacle and possibly a final chance for Ma to display showmanship.

An Alibaba employee said,

“I expect a long, long ceremony with Jack showing up at the end – in dramatic style, of course, and plenty of people with their computers out working.”

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A passionate writer with bachelor’s in the field of English & Journalism. Other than being a bibliophile, some of her hobbies are travelling, photography and poetry.

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