In an exclusive New York Times interview, the Chinese billionaire said on Friday that his retirement was not the end of an era but "the beginning of an era". Initially developed as a business-to-business e-commerce solution.
Ma was born into a poor family in the city of Hangzhou in China's eastern Zhejiang province. Jack Ma, who is much respected in China, and is the global face of Alibaba, will retire after he turns 54 on Monday.
On one hand, Chinese tech companies are facing increased scrutiny by the Chinese government led by President Xi Jinping, on the other hand, the tech firms are caught in an escalating trade war between the U.S. and China. His birthday also coincides with a the Chinese holiday of Teacher's Day, which celebrates educators.
"I am very thankful for Australia and the time I spent there in my youth", Ma said during his visit.
Alibaba's growth and Ma's wealth track changes in modern China, in which a burgeoning urban middle class has more money to spend while authorities allowed large accumulations of wealth, especially when connected to forward-thinking enterprises.
As he prepares to leave the company, Ma is among China's richest men with a net worth estimated by Forbes at $38.6 billion. Despite leaving day-to-day operations, Ma will remain on the board and mentor Alibaba's management.
He was an English teacher before starting Alibaba in 1999 and turning it into a multibillion-dollar internet giant.
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"The first time I used the internet, I touched on the keyboard and I find 'well, this is something I believe, it is something that is going to change the world and change China", Mr Ma once said in an interview.
Shares dropped more than 2 percent following the report of Ma's impending retirement. He was released and has since returned to Beijing, where JD.com is based.
Since handing off his CEO title to Daniel Zhang, Ma has spent 40 per cent of the year travelling the globe to preach about the virtues of globalisation and inter-connectedness, the potential of technology to improve lives, and about philanthropy.
As Beijing has increased its involvement in the private sector, Ma has shifted what he has said about China's government.
"I've prepared a Jack Ma Foundation".
Ma said he could never be as rich as Gates - but that he could retire earlier than Gates.