Decoding and Learning from Alibaba’s Growth Story
Alibaba is one of the most prominent names in the world when it comes to eCommerce. It is the leading online platform in China that acts as a marketplace for buyers and sellers. In fact, Alibaba is the biggest eCommerce company worldwide, with over 674 million active users. Alibaba does not have any physical stores and operates through its three flagship eCommerce platforms, i.e., Alibaba.com, Tmall.com, and Taobao.com. With annual revenue of $109.4 billion, Alibaba is undoubtedly the giant of the online world. But how did it manage to become the global behemoth that rules the digital space? Read on to know more.
Alibaba: Its Growth Journey
Jack Ma got together with 17 other motivated individuals and started Alibaba in December 1999 from a small apartment located in Hangzhou, China. While the brand has now become a global phenomenon, the story of its incredible growth is equally impressive.
Jack Ma, the principal founder of Alibaba, was born on September 10, 1964, in Hangzhou, China. As the demand for learning the English language was increasing amongst the Chinese people, Jack Ma aspired to become an English teacher. At the same time, he did manage to get a teaching job but could not hold on to it for much longer. He soon moved towards a career in business when his application for the job of a manager with KFC in China was declined. He then moved to the US to enrol at Harvard University, his dream school.
When he realized the absence of Chinese companies in the eCommerce sector, he decided to start a website focused on eCommerce in China. He soon received support from Chinese investors who shared his vision. He also started another company named China Pages which turned out to be a success. He took China Pages to other investors and secured $35 million in venture-debt funding to start Alibaba.
Alibaba came into existence at the right time. With millions of customers looking for eCommerce options, Alibaba found its sweet spot in the market. As the country was transitioning to capitalism from communism, Chinese people were getting high-paying jobs. As a result, the country was largely immune to the dot-com bubble crash that shook the global economy.
Buoyed by the success, Alibaba started new ventures like TaoBao.com and Aliwangwang. With the launch of its payment platform Alipay, Alibaba was poised to dominate the Asian eCommerce sector. One of the driving factors for its success was the support from the Chinese government. Wary of foreign businesses, the government implemented strict control on the internet in China that locked out companies like Amazon and offered Alibaba an open field to develop. Ever since European and American companies have been playing catch-up with Alibaba. The success of its $25 billion IPO took Wall Street by storm and established Alibaba as the market leader.
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Here are some interesting insights into the profiles of 18 original Alibaba founders: –
- Jack Ma: – The founder and former executive Chairman of Alibaba.
- Cathy Zhang: – Jack Ma’s wife, former teacher, and founder of Alibaba.
- Simon Xie: – An engineering graduate and one of the founders of Alibaba.
- Peng Lei: – A Chinese billionaire also known as Lucy Peng and one of the original founders of Alibaba.
- Trudy Dai: – Part of the company since inception and has been the president of wholesale marketplaces.
- Han Min: – Former South Korean minister of defence and one of the founders.
- Eddie Wu: – Senior Vice President of Alibaba who handles three business units.
- Joseph Tsai: – Taiwanese Canadian billionaire entrepreneur who was also a founder of Alibaba.
- Lou Wensheng: – The original website planner and founder of Alibaba.
- James Sheng: – Senior vice president of Alibaba and a key founder.
- Toto Sun: – Another important founder of the company.
- Jane Jiang: – Deputy CPO of the company and a founding member.
- Jin Yuanying: – Founder of Alibaba and Taobao, and responsible for both companies.
- Jianhang Jin: – The founding member became the president of the company in August 2014.
- Zhou Yuehong: – Joined the company as a founder after graduating from Hangzhou Dianzi University.
- Tony Yiu: – Worked with the International Business Unit as one of the founders.
- Shi Yufeng: – One of the original founders of Alibaba and a co-founder of Taobao.
- Ma Changwei: – Founder, investor, and director at Taobao Product Technology Centre.
Key Highlights of the Journey
- 1999: Jack Ma and his partners started Alibaba in Hangzhou.
- 2000: Alibaba raises $25 million from Softbank, Goldman Sachs, and other lead investors.
- 2003–04: – Alibaba launches Taobao and Alipay.
- 2007: Alibaba is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
- 2009: Alibaba launches its cloud computing platform.
- 2010: Leading brands like GAP and Ray-Ban start their stores on Taobao.
- 2013: Jack Ma resigns as Alibaba’s CEO and is replaced by Jonathan Lu.
- 2014: Alibaba has become the largest eCommerce platform for small businesses. The $25 billion IPO of Alibaba is fully subscribed.
- 2016: Taobao faces action from the US government and is labelled as a platform selling fake products.
- 2019: Jack Ma steps down as the chairman of Alibaba.
The journey of Alibaba is nothing short of inspirational. With the rapid pace at which the company is still growing, the next few years hold a lot of promise as an interesting time in the history of the company.
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