Alibaba's Lazada names Li Chun as company's third CEO in 3 years

Mr Li Chun (left) will succeed Mr Pierre Poignant. PHOTOS: LAZADA

SINGAPORE - E-commerce platform Lazada, the South-east Asian arm of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, announced on Friday (June 26) that Lazada Group president Li Chun will take over as group chief executive.

The move will drive the company's next phase of growth under an accelerated digitalisation landscape in the region, said Lazada in a statement.

Mr Li will succeed Mr Pierre Poignant, who will become special assistant to Alibaba Group chairman and CEO Daniel Zhang.

The appointment takes effect from July 1, and Mr Li will continue in his current role as chief executive of Lazada Indonesia but will no longer be group president, a Lazada spokesman told The Straits Times.

Mr Li has an intimate understanding of Lazada's business and market landscape due to his experience in both roles over the last three years, said Lazada in a statement.

He also has deep experience in technology architecture and product strategy, which will enable him to further strengthen the group's data technology application and business localisation across its six markets.

Lazada group chairman Lucy Peng said: "Chun is an experienced business leader who can realise Lazada's vision of unifying commerce with technology to advance South-east Asia's digital economy."

She added that under Mr Poignant's leadership, Lazada has delivered healthy growth over the past two years.

"As a member of Lazada's founding team, Pierre has inspired all of us through his dedication, passion, humility and perseverance. We are deeply grateful to Pierre for his invaluable contributions in building the solid foundation for Lazada's long term sustainable success."

The new appointment is the third change at the helm in three years. Mr Poignant took over as group CEO from Ms Peng in December 2018, nine months after after Alibaba appointed Ms Peng - one of Alibaba's 18 co-founders - to replace Mr Maximilian Bittner. Mr Bittner was Lazada's founder and group CEO since 2012.

Mr Li, who joined Alibaba Group in 2014 as chief technology officer for its B2B business unit, was appointed co-president of Lazada in June 2017 and Lazada Indonesia CEO in July last year.

He holds a Bachelor's dual degree in mechanics and economics law from Peking University, and a Master's degree in mechanical engineering from Ohio State University.

Mr Li said that Lazada's priority is to create unique value for consumers and merchants in South-east Asia.

There is incredible momentum for e-commerce across the region, and together with our strong local talents, we will step up Lazada's digital innovation and commercial development to empower our customers to be successful and provide the best user experience for our consumers," he said.

More than 90 per cent of Lazada's staff are local, said the company.

Lazada served over 70 million unique consumers in six countries for the twelve months ended March 31, it added.

In the same period, Lazada Indonesia's orders grew more than 170 per cent year-on-year.

Reuters reported on Friday two sources saying that the new appointment is due to Lazada's middling performance. It has struggled to fend off rivals like Singapore-headquartered Sea's e-commerce arm Shopee, which is backed by Alibaba rival Tencent, for control of the fast-growing regional market of 650 million consumers.

Alibaba has long struggled to manage Lazada, a company it owns 90 per cent of after investing US$3 billion (S$4.2 billion) since 2016, with employees highlighting a long-running culture clash with management from China, Reuters said.

Three sources told Reuters that Lazada is also examining whether to rebrand or shut down LazMall, its take on Alibaba's Tmall marketplace.

"LazMall is an important business to Lazada and the competition must be worried if they are spreading these rumors," she said.

When asked about this, the Lazada spokesman told ST that LazMall is currently home to over 18,000 international and local brands, a nine-fold increase since its launch in 2018.

"LazMall is an important business to Lazada and the competition must be worried if they are spreading these rumors," she said.

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