We heard about this two weeks ago. And a few friends we discussed with all asked “Which ex-Lazada CEO”?
This article was originally published in Chinese by Liuwei of Leiphone, translated and republished with permission.
You can refer to Momentum Works’ “Ecommerce in Southeast Asia” report for structured analysis and insights about Lazada. You can also read our book “Seeing the unseen: behind Chinese tech giants’ global venturing” for more case studies, analyses, and reflections.
According to Leiphone’s report, Lazada’s former CEO, Chun Li (李纯), has joined the long-established cross-border company DHgate (敦煌网), which was founded in 2004, as Group CEO.
From 2020 to 2022, Chun Li served as the CEO of Lazada and was later succeeded by James Dong (董铮). After that, Chun Li left Lazada.
Lazada’s leadership in 2022 (source: Momentum Works’ “Off the Record: Shopee’s turbulent 2022”)
Before formally joining DHgate, Chun Li had already collaborated with DHgate for over half a year as an advisor.
Chun Li came from a technical background. He joined Alibaba in 2014 and has served as the CTO of the B2B business unit and even worked as an assistant to Daniel Zhang (former Chairman and CEO of Alibaba who succeeded the role from Jack Ma).
Notably, all of Lazada’s CTOs in history come from Alibaba’s B2B division and have interacted with Chun Li in various capacities.
After Alibaba’s acquisition, the first CTO of Lazada was Dongbai Guo (郭东白), from AliExpress (Alibaba’s B2B division).
Dongbai Guo and Chun Li joined Alibaba around the same time. Guo initially held the position of Chief Architect, and later, he served as the CTO for AliExpress, leading the team to establish a global techl infrastructure for AliExpress.
After leaving Lazada, Dongbai Guo became the CTO of Chehaoduo Group (the parent company of Guazi Used Cars and Maodou New Cars) and is now the vice president of Coupang, a South Korean cross-border ecommerce platform.
Dongbai Guo’s successor as Lazada CTO, Wang Hao (王皓), was also an old colleague of Chun Li.
After Chun Li was appointed co-president of Lazada in 2017, Wang Hao took over the position of Head of Technology for Alibaba International Operation (ICBU) from Chun Li, and subsequently, succeeded Dongbai Guo as Lazada’s CTO.
One of Chun Li’s initial roles at Lazada was overseeing technology and products. He oversaw the establishment of Lazada’s technical system with the Voyager project, reportedly named by him.
He worked closely with Alibaba’s lead PM, Chen Simiao (陈思淼), to transfer Alibaba’s technical system to Lazada.
Chen Simiao was one of the three Alibaba’s technical P9 engineers (senior expert) who participated full-time in the Voyager project at that time. Chen is now the CTO of Dewu (得物), an ecommerce platform focusing on trendy streetwear and fashion.
The other two are Yu Qing (余青) and Lang Jun (郎君). The former is currently the CTO of Xingyun Group 行云集团 (ecommerce and digital supply chain platform). The latter currently serves as the Director of Tencent’s Overseas Game Algorithm Center.
After the completion of the Voyager project, in 2019, Chun Li was appointed as the CEO of Lazada Indonesia. During his tenure, he elevated Lazada from the third or fourth position in the Indonesian market to the second place.
Due to his accomplishments in Indonesia, in 2020, Chun Li succeeded Pierre Poignant as the CEO of Lazada, working alongside with CTO Wang Hao.
In December 2021, Daniel Zhang, who was the Chairman and CEO of Alibaba Group at the time, released an internal letter:
Trudy Dai (戴珊) was assigned to oversee the “China Digital Commerce” unit (where Taobao and Tmall sit);
Jiang Fan (蒋凡) will oversee the “Global Digital Commerce” (consisting of AliExpress and a number of overseas subsidiaries such as Lazada).
Half a year after Jiang Fan took office, James Dong (董铮) replaced Chun Li as CEO.
James Dong joined Alibaba in 2015, and like Chun Li, had also served as an assistant to Daniel Zhang. James Dong was familiar with Lazada, having been involved in post-investment management of Alibaba into Lazada.
In 2018, James Dong was appointed CEO of Lazada Thailand and later Lazada Vietnam.
Under James Dong’s leadership, Lazada has seen significant growth in Thailand and Vietnam: Lazada surpassed Shopee in Thailand, becoming the most visited ecommerce platform in the country. Note: we shared some thoughts on this in Momentum Works’ Ecommerce in Southeast Asia report.
Southeast Asia’s Ecommerce platform MAU (source: Momentum Works’ Ecommerce in Southeast Asia report)
During Chun Li’s tenure as Lazada’s CEO, the pandemic struck, forcing him to manage remotely from Singapore. This weakened his control over the business in various countries. Throughout this period, Lazada was consistently overshadowed by Shopee.
In mid-2022, James Dong succeeded Chun Li as CEO of Lazada. Some external observers believe that James Dong’s proficiency in English and his accomplishments in Thailand and Vietnam made him a suitable partner for Jiang Fan, helping to “compensate for Jiang’s language limitations”.
Public sources show that DHgate (founded in 2004) was among the first in China to offer cross-border B2B online transactions for SMEs. As a long-established B2B ecommerce site, DHgate’s business has seen steady growth, but “lacks explosive growth”.
It’s reported that DHgate has been poaching talent from Lazada recently.
Several high-level technical talents from Lazada revealed that they were approached by DHgate. Chun Li, having both cross-border B2B and B2C experience and an understanding of both technology and business, has now joined DHgate as Group CEO. Although his exact plans remain unclear, many expect significant moves from him in the future.