Alibaba, Jack Ma’s ecommerce giant, celebrated 20 years in business in April.
Over that time, the online marketplace has grown from a startup in an apartment in Hangzhou in East China to employ more than 100,000 people in 30 business units. The US-listed multinational now has a market capitalisation of US$452 billion (AU$660bn) and an Australian arm launched locally in earl 2017. The business now operates in cloud computing, AI and finance, alongside it online retail ventures.
Ma, a former English teacher turned billionaire, stepped away from the company overnight, handing the reins over to CEO Daniel Zhang in a stadium spectacular that saw him dress up as a rock start to sing Chinese pop with co-founder Lucy Peng in front of around 60,000 employees.
As part of the handover, the company updated its six core values for the second time in its history, most notably, finishing with “Live seriously, work happily” saying “We respect the work-life balance decisions of every individual”. The comment is notable because Ma had previously backed China’s “996” tech industry culture, which expects employees to work 72 hours a week – six days, from 9am to 9pm.
More recently, Ma said he can see a time when people work just 12 hours a week, declaring: “I think people should work three days a week, four hours a day”.
With its goal of being a company that last 102 years, Alibaba has set itself other targets, including serving 2 billion consumers, helping create 100 million jobs and enabling 10 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to be profitable by 2036.
Here are Alibaba’s updated values and the rationale behind them:
Customers first, employees second, shareholders third
Understanding and addressing the needs and pain points of our customers is our most-important responsibility. Only by creating sustained customer value can our employees grow and shareholders achieve long-term benefit.
Trust makes everything simple
Trust is precious and must be constantly nurtured and protected. We want our Aliren to continue to be straightforward, standing up for the right values and relying on one another via trust.
Change is the only constant
The world is changing even if we are not. Embracing change, either by changing oneself or fostering change in the company, is a unique part of our DNA and must be valued.
Today’s best performance is tomorrow’s baseline
This onward-and-upward approach has helped Alibaba survive our most challenging moments and thrive when we are ahead. Alibaba spirit means we need to constantly challenge and motivate ourselves and strive to exceed normal parameters.
If not now, when? If not me, who?
This was a tagline in Alibaba’s very first job advertisement. It’s still how we want our employees to view themselves as owners of the business. This gives them a sense of purpose and drive.
Live seriously, work happily
Work is for now, but life is forever. We want our employees to treat life seriously when they work and enjoy work as one enjoys life. We respect the work-life balance decisions of every individual.