Jack Ma's mantra to staff: Balance among system, people, culture

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Bengaluru : Chinese e-tailer Alibaba's charismatic Executive Chairman Jack Ma, who steps down in September 2019, has exhorted his 80,000-odd employees to have the right balance among system, people and culture to sustain the company's growth.

"Simply relying on individuals or blindly following a system will not solve our problems to achieve long-term sustainable growth; you need the right balance among system, people and culture," Ma said in an e-mail letter to the group's 86,833 employees, which the Hangzhou-based global firm shared with IANS here.

With an aim to connect Chinese entrepreneurs with the world, Ma -- who was a teacher in English and international trade at a university in Hangzhou -- about 180km southwest of Shanghai, founded in 1999 the e-commerce platform Alibaba.com, which rose to become one of the largest companies in the world.

Alibaba Group announced on Monday that on its 20th anniversary on September 10, 2019, its Chief Executive Daniel Zhang, 46, will take charge as the new Chairman.

Ma will continue as the Chairman till September 2019 and remain as a board member of the Alibaba Group until the annual shareholder meet in 2020.

With an interest to get back to education, the teacher-turned-entrepreneur said he will, however, remain a lifetime member of Alibaba Partnership -- a group of 36 of the company and its affiliates' senior management.

"I have full confidence that our partnership system and efforts to safeguard our culture will, in time, win over the love and support from customers, employees and shareholders," 54-year-old Chinese business tycoon Ma said in the letter.

Alibaba's future will need to depend on "droves of talent" and the transition of chairmanship demonstrates that the company has stepped up from the one that relies on individuals, to one built on a culture of talent development, Ma noted.

"The teacher in me feels proud of our team, our leadership and our unique mission-driven culture, as well as the fact that we continue to develop exceptional business leaders and professional talent like Zhang," he said addressing the "Aliren" -- the people of Alibaba.

Zhang, who was earlier the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Taobao, an online shopping portal owned by the Alibaba Group, was appointed the CEO of the group in 2015. He has been with the company since 2007.

Even as Alibaba was founded as a company that could last 102 years, Ma admitted that no company can rely solely on its founders.

"A sustainable Alibaba would have to be built on sound governance, culture-centric philosophy, and consistency in developing talent. Because of physical limits on one's ability and energy, no one can shoulder the responsibilities of chairman forever," he said.

The company needs "younger and more talented" people to take over its leadership roles so they can inherit Alibaba's mission to make it easy to do business anywhere, Ma noted.

"Starting the process of passing the Alibaba torch to Daniel (Zhang) and his team is the right decision at the right time, because I know from working with them that they are ready, and I have complete confidence in our next generation of leaders," Ma added.

The company, which reported a revenue of $39.9 billion for the fiscal 2017-18, has been successful not because of its scale but its team, the business magnate said.

"Our partnership system, unique culture and talented team have laid a strong foundation for the legacy of our company."

Zhang, with his "unparalleled" analytical mind and guts to innovate and test creative business models, will drive the multinational firm forward, said Ma.

"The one thing I can promise everyone is this: Alibaba was never about Jack Ma, but Jack Ma will forever belong to Alibaba," Ma added.

Alibaba Group's businesses and affiliates include its e-tail portals Alibaba.com, Taobao, Tmall and AliExpress, film-making firm Alibaba Pictures, cloud computing platform Alibaba Cloud, financial services company Ant Financial and new retail grocery stores Hema, among others.