Daniel Zhang: 'Singles’ Day' shopping event whiz is Jack Ma's successor pick

Since becoming chief operating officer in 2013 and CEO in 2015, Zhang has been leading work at Alibaba, with Ma stepping back and acting as more of a figurehead.

Published: 11th September 2018 01:21 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th September 2018 04:17 AM   |  A+A-


Daniel Zhang (Photo | AP)

By Express News Service

NEW DELHI:  When Shanghai-born Daniel Zhang takes over as chairman of Asia’s most valuable firm – Alibaba Group – exactly a year from now, it won’t be the first time he’s stepping into the shoes of the legendary entrepreneur and founder of the firm Jack Ma. Since becoming chief operating officer in 2013 and CEO in 2015, Zhang has been leading work at Alibaba, with Ma stepping back and acting as more of a figurehead, suiting his image of a rockstar entrepreneur.

Known by employees as ‘Xiaoyaozi’, meaning ‘free and unfettered one’, Zhang has even used the title on his business card and in press statements. He has been touted by many as being creative and having a big vision, and has “demonstrated superb talent, business acumen and determined leadership”, Ma said. “Under his stewardship, Alibaba has seen consistent and sustainable growth for 13 consecutive quarters.” The firm is currently valued at $420 billion.

Before joining Alibaba in 2007 as CFO of its main online marketplace Taobao, Zhang was a senior manager at global auditor Pricewaterhouse Coopers and chief financial officer of a Chinese online games company. He holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from Shanghai University of Finance and Economics. However, it won’t all be smooth sailing for Zhang once he takes on the executive chairmanship of Alibaba’s board, say experts, as the company’s margins in recent times have declined, owing to factors like slowing down of the economy and stiff competition from rival Tencent.

Ma started Alibaba.com in 1999 as a business-to-business marketplace with 17 co-founders in his Hangzhou apartment turning the company into a global e-commerce giant with burgeoning cloud computing and package delivery businesses. Alibaba’s sprawling businesses also include brick-and-mortar stores, online video, movies and other enterprises, and it has sought to expand in promising new markets like India and Southeast Asia. 

Ma gave up the CEO role in 2013 and in recent years has found time to work on other projects, including philanthropy. He said on Monday that he wants to return to education, adding that he is still young and has “lots of dreams to pursue.”Ma, with a personal fortune of $39.9 billion figured 19th in the Bloomberg Billionaires Index topped by American technology entrepreneur and investor, Jeff Bezoz, who had a net worth of $161 billion.

Man behind largest online shopping phenomenon
Zhang built the Tmall business-to-consumer platform, one of Alibaba’s most important businesses. He is also the architect of the world’s largest online shopping phenomenon - 11.11 - Alibaba’s annual signature event on Nov 11, also known as Singles’ Day. He steered the group from PC-based to mobile-based transactions, which now account for nearly 80% of total gross merchandise volume.

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