Jack Ma just got a job offer from the Indonesian government, but it’s complicated

Tech in Asia

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Jack Ma just got a job offer from the Indonesian government, but it’s complicated
Will Jack Ma take the offer to promote growth in the e-commerce industry?

Jack Ma is indisputably the most successful man in Asia’s ecommerce history. As founder of Alibaba and a major stakeholder in both that company and its e-payment spinoff Ant Financial, Mr. Ma certainly keeps busy. But he might be about to get even busier, as he’s just gotten a new job offer. From Fortune:

Indonesia has asked the chairman of China’s Alibaba Group Holding, Jack Ma, to act as adviser in the development of the Southeast Asian country’s nascent e-commerce industry, according to a video released by the government.


To promote growth in the e-commerce industry, the government is setting up a “steering committee” consisting of 10 ministers for which it has asked Alibaba’s Ma to be an adviser, Communication and Information Minister Rudiantara said.


An Alibaba spokeswoman confirmed that Ma was asked to be adviser to Indonesia’s e-commerce steering committee, but declined to say whether he had accepted the offer.

It’s not unfathomable that he might accept the offer, though. Alibaba clearly is interested in Indonesia’s ecommerce market. It bought a controlling stake in Southeast Asian ecommerce giant Lazada earlier this year, and Lazada Indonesia has seen some leadership shuffling and Alipay integration since Alibaba took the reins.

Given Alibaba’s interest in the market, a government advisor position that would allow Jack Ma to potentially directly influence Indonesian ecommerce policy might be hard to turn down.

That said, it’s not clear precisely what his role would be if he does choose to accept.

Political minefield?

Outside of his company’s aspirations in Indonesia, Jack Ma will have to weigh another factor when making his decision: how helping Indonesia is likely to play in China.

Chinese comments on a news story about Ma being offered the advisor position were full of anger at Indonesia, citing grievances ranging from the 1998 Indonesian riots that targeted ethnic Chinese to current South China Sea disputes. Some commenters suggested Jack Ma should take the position so that Chinese companies can “earn away” more of Indonesia’s money. Others said he should ignore or deny the request.

This puts Ma in a difficult position. Accepting the offer would probably be the best move for Alibaba’s Southeast Asian business, but it could also earn the company the ire of Chinese nationalists, hurting itself in its own home market.

Since China is still far more important to Alibaba than Southeast Asia, it’s hard to see Jack Ma risking the company’s domestic status in the hopes of gaining some advantage in a smaller market abroad.

But is accepting the position a real risk? Are the angry commenters a small but vocal minority, or do they represent a real sentiment that could actually hurt Alibaba?

Those are questions Jack Ma will need to answer before he can give his own answer to Indonesia. – Rappler.com

This article was first published on Tech in Asia.

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