The hiring freeze came to light about a week before Alibaba is due to report March quarter earnings on May 7. In January, Alibaba, which handles more online commerce than Amazon and eBay combined, reported slowing revenue growth. Headcount had been growing quickly at Alibaba. As of Dec. 31, 2014, the company had 34,081 employees, a 63 percent increase from a year earlier, the company said in January.
As long as gross merchandise volume was under 10 trillion yuan ($1.6 trillion), headcount should be below 50,000, Ma said. A headcount of “over 30,000″ was already enough for now, he added. Gross merchandise volume in the quarter to Dec. 31, 2014 was 787 billion yuan, a 49 percent increase from the same quarter the year before. For the whole year, it totaled about 2.3 trillion yuan.
Ma also stated that Alibaba would consolidate its businesses into seven segments: E-commerce, Ant Financial, Cainiao logistics, big data and cloud computing, advertising, cross-border trade and other internet services.