Everything you need to know about: Alibaba
In some senses, it is easier to describe what Alibaba doesn’t do rather than what it does. Its main business revolves around its suite of ecommerce sites (Alibaba.com, Taobao and Tmall), but it also has interests in electronic payments, cloud services, and numerous other services provided by affiliates including Alipay.
Alipay’s relationship with the wider Alibaba Group had been murky, with its owner Ant Financial spun off from Alibaba while still headed by Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma. Recently, their affiliate relationship was made more official via Alibaba’s acquisition of a 33% stake in Ant Financial.
Ma played a crucial role before stepping down in September, leading the company from its beginnings as a B2B marketplace in the role of Executive Chairman. He was replaced by CEO Daniel Zhang, with the aforementioned acquisition being one of his first major moves in his new role. Before leaving the company, Jack Ma’s net worth was $37.3bn, while the company reported its FY19 revenue as being $56.15bn.
These are crucial times for Alibaba, what with the approach of the shopping extravaganza that is Singles’ Day. Taking place on the 11th of November every year, the occasion eclipses similar events such as Black Friday or the Boxing Day sales. In 2017, more than $25bn was spent on Singles’ Day by Alibaba shoppers.
Though the event was not started by the company, instead supposedly inaugurated by students at Nanjing University in the 1990s, it is closely associated with Alibaba, which lays on a gala with celebrity appearances to celebrate the event. This year, the singer Taylor Swift is receiving top billing, her star power demonstrating both Alibaba’s irresistible heft and the esteem in which the company holds Singles’ Day. Prior appearances have come from the likes of David Beckham, Nicole Kidman and Pharrell Williams.
Business Chief Legend: Ho Ching, CEO of Temasek
Ask Singaporeans who Ho Ching is, and the majority will answer the ‘wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’. And that’s certainly true. However, she’s also the CEO of Temasek Holdings, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, and one of the world’s largest investment companies.
Well, she is until October 1, 2021, as she recently announced she would be retiring following 16 years as CEO of the investment giant.
Since taking the reins in 2004, two years after joining Temasek as Executive Director, Ho has gradually transformed what was an investment firm wholly owned by Singapore’s Government into an active investor worldwide, splashing out on sectors like life sciences and tech, expanding its physical footprint with 11 offices worldwide (from London to Mumbai to San Francisco) and delivering growth of US$120 billion between 2010-2020.
Described by Temasek chairman Lim Boon Heng as having taken “bold steps to open new pathways in finding the character of the organisations”, Ho is credited with building Temasek’s international portfolio, with China recently surpassing Singapore for the first time.
As global a footprint as Ho may have however, she has her feet firmly planted on Singapore soil and is committed to this tiny city-state where she was not only educated (excluding a year at Stanford) but has remained throughout her long and illustrious career – first as an engineer at the Ministry of Defence in 1976, where she met her husband, and most notably as CEO of Singapore Technologies, where she spent a decade, and where she is credited with repositioning and growing the group into the largest listed defence engineering company in Asia.
It’s little wonder Ho has featured on Forbes’ annual World’s Most Powerful Women list for the past 16 years, in 2007 as the third most powerful woman in business outside the US, and in 2020 at #30 worldwide.
But it’s not all business. Ho has a strong track record in Singapore public service, serving as chairman of the Singapore Institute of Standards and Industrial Research and as deputy chairman of the Economic Development Board; and is a committed philanthropist with a focus on learning difficulties and healthcare.
As the pandemic kicked off, she not only led active investments in technology and life sciences, with German COVID-19 vaccine developer BioNTech among the most recent additions to Temasek’s portfolio, but through the Temasek Foundation – the firm’s philanthropic arm which supports vulnerable groups close to Ho’s heart, handed out hand sanitiser and face masks.
So, you would be forgiven for thinking that at age 68, Ho might simply relax. But in March 2021, just as she announced her retirement from Temasek, Ho joined the Board of Directors of Wellcome Leap, a US-based non-profit organisation that’s dedicated to accelerating innovations in global health. Not ready to put her firmly grounded feet up yet it seems.