Jack Ma is stepping down from the helm of Chinese e-commerce conglomerate, Alibaba, one of the world’s largest retailers.

Ma is set to stand down in September 2019 and named his successor as current CEO Daniel Zhang, an 11-year veteran of the company.

The 19 year old multinational has wide-ranging operations, including B2B and C2C commerce, media and financial services.

Alibaba has been a huge player on the stage of China’s transformation into a capitalist power, and Jack Ma is China’s richest entrepreneur.

Attr: Google Finance

An e-commerce platform to rival Amazon

The core business is the selling of goods and it began as a platform for business-to-business trade.

Alibaba.com, an English portal, handles sales between importers and exporters all over the world and the Chinese portal provides domestic B2B trade.

Then there is AliExpress, the most visited e-commerce website in Russia and the 10th most popular website in Brazil, similar to eBay, which is an online retail service for smaller buyers of lower quantities of goods at wholesale prices.

Alibaba re-invented Chinese Singles Day on 11 Nov, transforming it into the biggest online shopping event in the world. In 2017 they sold more than $25bn worth of products on the day.

Singles Day sales beat Cyber Monday

In contrast last year’s Cyber Monday, the biggest online shopping day in the US, brought in only $6.59bn across all retailers combined.

Other signs of Alibaba’s success include its stock market launch in 2014, which was the world’s highest public offering in history, closing at $25bn.

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As of June 2018, Alibaba’s market cap stood at $542bn, making it the second Asian company to break the $500bn valuation mark, after internet conglomerate Tencent.

Jack Ma, executive chairman of Alibaba until September next 2019, founded the simple concept of the e-commerce marketplace in 1999 in his apartment in Hangzhou, on China’s east coast.

Sleepless in Seattle

Ma was struck by the idea to start an online business while without success internet searching for Chinese beer while on a trip to the US.

His first attempt of an online e-commerce site was not a success, but his second go was the start of Alibaba in 1999.

Several operations now exist under Jack Ma’s flagship concept, including a platform for logistics and shipments, an advertising network, cloud computing and financial services.

In March 2014, Alibaba bought a controlling stake in ChinaVision Media Group for $804 million, to find opportunities in online entertainment and other media areas.

This company was renamed Alibaba Pictures Group.

The latest push by Jack Ma has been on research and development.

Transformation from retailer to tech giant

Although Alibaba is already China’s biggest R&D spender, at $2.6bn in 2017, Ma announced plans in October that year and additional $15bn on a research institute called DAMO Academy.

DAMO Academy will work on emerging technologies like AI, blockchain, computer security, fintech and quantum computing.

With DAMO Academy, Ma looks to mirror the R&D spend of tech giants such as Microsoft and Alphabet, Google’s parent company.

Meanwhile, Jack Ma will retire on his 55th birthday, giving him plenty of time for philanthropic endeavour.