HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - In December, Alibaba Group Holding put Pierre Poignant in charge of Lazada, the subsidiary spearheading the Chinese e-commerce giant's high-stakes South-east Asia expansion. The choice was out of character for several reasons. Poignant is a professional manager - a type Alibaba supremo Jack Ma has long disdained. He was part of Lazada's founding team, also typically disqualifying. Finally, as a Frenchman, he's one of a very few Westerners to have cracked Alibaba's upper echelons.
Poignant, 40, takes charge at a fraught moment for Lazada. Since being absorbed by Alibaba, the Singapore company has been roiled by management turmoil - Poignant is the third CEO in nine months - even as it fights a multi-front war against well-funded, fleet-footed rivals. In Indonesia, by far the region's biggest and most promising market, Lazada has fallen behind homegrown players.