Jack Ma has announced that he will be stepping down as the Chairman of Alibaba, China’s largest e-commerce platform and one of the biggest in the world. Ma was one of the co-founders of the company and is credited with launching the e-commerce boom in China over the last few years. Jack Ma will be succeeded by current CEO Daniel Zhang. Zhang has been at the company for the last 11 years, and was appointed by Ma himself as CEO in 2013.
Alibaba was founded in 1999 in an apartment in Hangzhou. The goal of the platform was to connect Chinese exporters with foreign retailers. Soon after, the company expanded into consumer retailing and later became the largest e-commerce company in the world by total value of goods sold. Alibaba also launched online cloud computing and financial services to supplement its e-commerce business. The company’s growth made Jack Ma one of the most famous Chinese nationals in the world and also one of the wealthiest. Ma’s net worth is estimated at $37 billion.
The former English teacher is also credited with steering the e-commerce company towards an IPO in Wall Street back in 2014. The initial public offering valued at $25 billion is still the largest ever by a Chinese company. A statement released by Alibaba revealed that even though Ma will no longer be the chairman after September 2019, he will still have a strong voice over the direction of the company. Ma will be part of the Alibaba partnership, a group of 36 people that have the right to nominate the majority of the board of directors at the company.
Ma said in a letter that this transition was planned way ahead. He added that this is the clearest indication so far that Alibaba has transitioned into the next level of corporate governance. From a company that used to rely on individuals to run it, now it has an institutional administrative structure. Ma also said that he’s hoping to make a return to education although he didn’t give further details.
Alibaba is part of a conglomerate of companies that also include the Chinese social media platform Tencent Holdings Ltd. as well as search engine Baido.com Inc. The conglomerate owns JD.com, another Chinese e-commerce platform and rival to Alibaba.
E-commerce has boomed in China over the last few years. In 2017 alone, online sales in the country rose by 32.2% to nearly $1.1 trillion. This accounted for 20% of total retail shopping.
Alibaba’s expansion into the Chinese market came during a time when the Internet in the country was starting to take roots, and there were so many challenges too. For instance, very few Chinese people owned credit cards to facilitate online shopping. But Alibaba created its own online payment system to ensure that the company would reach as many people as possible. In the beginning, Alibaba raised $5 million in capital from investors before later getting an additional $20 million from Japan’s Softbank. Ever since, the company has continued to grow stronger. Jack Ma has always been at the center of the company and he will definitely be missed after the departure.