After Jack: Alibaba Searches for New Growth in the Post-Ma Era (Nikkei Asian Review)

Jack Ma is due to retire as the head of Alibaba in September. Can Chief Executive Daniel Zhang Yong deliver the same blockbuster results that the Chinese tech giant has enjoyed under the leadership of its charismatic founder?

The Nikkei Asian Review cover story this week featured Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and focuses on the leadership of its CEO, Daniel Zhang Yong, who succeeded the company’s legendary founder, Jack Ma Yun.

A colleague of the Editor-in-chief who met Zhang six months ago at Alibaba’s headquarters in Hangzhou used a Japanese idiom to describe the CEO’s uncanny abilities. “Mr. Zhang was a rather quiet person,” my colleague said, “but he could tell how something smelled just by glancing at it.” In other words, Zhang was ferociously intelligent and could grasp the big picture based on just a sliver of information.

It appears that Ma saw something in Zhang that he himself lacked. Perhaps the founder gazed into the future and saw that Alibaba would face challenges that he had never encountered.

The biggest challenge for Alibaba obviously has to be the tariff war between China and the U.S. Some 88% of Alibaba’s revenue comes from e-commerce. A sluggish global economy and inflationary pressure caused by steep import tariffs could squeeze Chinese consumption — and eventually Alibaba’s businesses.

Famously, Zhang is the brains behind Singles Day. Held every year on Nov. 11, the shopping festival has grown to become the world’s biggest retail event. Zhang’s proven ingenuity will be tested by the gathering headwinds. READ MORE

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