Ma, who turned 55 on Tuesday, announced last year that he would retire within a year, with the company CEO Daniel Zhang taking over as the Chairman of the board. Ma resigned as Alibaba’s CEO on May 10, 2013.
His resignation comes amid uncertainty over the intensifying US-China trade war.
As co-founder of the Internet giant, the former English teacher likes to describe his relationship with Alibaba as that of a parent to a child, according to a report in Xinhua.
“It’s like weaning a child. It’s good for both the mother and the child. Even if her kid cried, she would not budge, as she knew it was a wise decision and a process of growing up,” he was quoted as saying.
Founded in 1999 in an underground garage, Alibaba has grown into one of the world’s most profitable companies.
Ma returned to Hupan Garden, the birthplace of Alibaba, on the eve of the company’s 20th anniversary.
“Ma’s Hangzhou apartment in 1999 is where it all began for Alibaba. On the eve of the company’s 20th birthday, we took him back to reflect on those early days and what it took to build Alibaba into what it is today,” the Alibaba Group tweeted while sharing a video in which Ma is shown describing his journey spanning two decades.
“When I come back here, it’s like a movie in my mind. This is the place we start. I’m the person always looking forward. I don’t want to look at the things back. It was not easy… but we know, without these tough days, we can never be today,” Ma said.
“It’s the dreams that keep us working hard. It’s the dreams that keep us never afraid of the mistakes,” he said.
Alibaba’s success did not come without doubts and setbacks. In 2000, Alibaba started to recruit workers.
“We couldn’t get staff as the name of the company sounded strange, and many people thought e-commerce had no future in China,” Ma was quoted as saying by Xinhua.
Attributing the company’s success to the good fortune which came from its desire to promote the progress of society and help small enterprises and employees grow, Ma said he was lucky to find a competent team.
Depicting himself as a man without a professional business and technology education, Ma said his experience of being a teacher played an important role in turning him into an entrepreneur.
Before starting Alibaba, Ma studied at Hangzhou Normal University after twice failing the national college entrance exams and became an English teacher after graduation.
In an open letter last year where he announced his retirement plans, Ma said he wants to return to education, which gives him excitement and blessings.