On his 55th birthday, Jack Ma steps down as chairman of online retail behemoth, Alibaba.
Jack Ma, whose net worth is at US$41 billion, plans to go back to serving his first love, education. Ma is a former English teacher whose playful image changed the Chinese executive stereotype. He’s looking into following the footsteps of his fellow tech innovator, Bill Gates.
Generally, share prices wobble upon departure of founders from big tech companies. But not in the case of Alibaba as it thrives into a new era through the culture of innovation Jack Ma helped nurture.
Alibaba has been in the hands of trusted and respected operational teams who have kept their system and company on e-commerce cutting edge. Ma is expected to retain some advisory functions. CEO Daniel hang and executive vice chairman Joseph Tsai were announced exactly a year ago.
Jeffrey Towson, a professor and an equity investor believes that Jack Ma succeeded of making himself redundant, something that Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Jerry Yang failed at. He said that Ma built a really robust culture and still are innovating like crazy.
It was in 1999 when Ma convinced a friend to give US$60,000 to start Alibaba in the eastern city of Hangzhou. Ma was a frequent ambassador for the company, known for stunts like a Michael Jackson-inspired dance at an Alibaba anniversary celebration two years ago. Ma even starred in his own kung fu short film.
Moreover, he has been the driving force for China’s internet industry and economy development. Furniture maker Cheng Huaibao even dubbed him as China’s entrepreneurial godfather.
Cheng shows respect to Ma, exclaiming that without him, Cheng wouldn’t have come out and started his own business. Cheng is one of the millions of small businessmen whose economies are oriented towards Alibaba’s market.
With around 750 million active users today, Alibaba helped China to achieve its tremendous consumer power which also proves to be a focal point in the government’s campaign to increase domestic demand in order to cut on foreign trade goods.
It has not all been sweet for Alibaba and Jack Ma as they have had their share of criticisms.
They have been accused of supporting rampant commercialism and materialism and the selling of counterfeit goods. E-commerce’s contribution to the rising concern in the national garbage problem is also a concern for Alibaba due to the packaging related to their products.
Even the excessive working hours have drawn interest after Ma dismissed all concerns related to this.
But Alibaba is resilient as it is. It has continued to innovate its ecosystem. One of which is Alipay, Alibaba’s finance unit cashless digital payment. It also brags about its “new retail” concept which combines online ordering with bricks-and-mortar stores. Earnings have remained strong despite the threatening China and US trade war.
Ma, who has established charitable organization focused on improving education, the environment and public health.In 2008, Alibaba donated $808,000 to victims of the Sichuan earthquake. Jack Ma became a trustee of the Nature Conservancy’s China program in 2009 and in 2010 he joined the global Board of Directors of the organization.
In 2015, Alibaba Hong Kong Young Entrepreneurs Foundation was launched to support Hong Kong entrepreneurs to help them grow their businesses. Alibaba even funded the rebuilding of 1,000 houses damaged by the earthquake Nepal.
Moreover Netpreneur started in 2019. It is an initiative that grants ten prizes of one million dollars each to ten African entrepreneurs per year.14.6 million dollars was also launched to develop education in Tibet.