Why does Alibaba conduct mass weddings of its employees?

Every year, as part of Aliday, the Company conducts mass weddings or group weddings of 102 newly-wed couples at its headquarters in Hangzhou, China.

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Mass weddings are not uncommon in India. This now has spread across the border and reached China.

Global e-commerce giant, Alibaba, organises mass wedding at its headquarters in China and this has turned out to be a global event for the employees.

Newly-wed couples among Alibaba employees from all across the world, who got married the previous year, are invited to the occasion, and Jack Ma himself presides the mass wedding ceremony offering words of wisdom to the newly wed couples.

The group weddings are performed in true Chinese tradition, with couples dressed in the conventional crimson Chinese attire, receiving sage advice from Ma. This year too, 102 newly-married couples took part in the mass wedding. Every year, 102 couples participate in the event, because Ma desires Alibaba should exist as a company for at least 102 years.

There is an interesting story behind this celebration which has become a practice now. Apparently, several years back, when Alibaba had just been launched, people did not really know much about the Company, and parents of employees used to worry if their children would find someone to marry. After a few years, Alibaba grew to become a recognised and respected name and that doubt disappeared. Therefore, to mark that, the Company celebrates the weddings of its employees in this unique manner every year. It is also a gesture to welcome the life partners of its employees into the Alibaba family.

Siddharth Shukla from India with his wife

This year, amongst the 102 couples, there was one Indian couple as well. Siddharth Shukla, an employee from India, works for Alibaba in its Hangzhou office in China. His wife recently moved to China from Pune. The couple tied the knot, earlier this year, in India. The family members of the Indian couple were also invited to the event to give them their blessings.

Sharing his feelings and experience with HRKatha, Shukla said, “My wife and I were very excited to be part of the ceremony and experience Chinese culture first hand. The rituals we performed, such as feeding each other and cutting each other’s hair were so significant. These are all the little things that one would want to do for one’s spouse every day. Sharing this moment along with the other 101 couples and the Alibaba family made the experience even more special. It is not every day that you get Jack Ma to preside over your wedding ceremony. It was truly an exceptional moment, which my wife and I will cherish for life.”

While the mass wedding captures all the attention every year, there are many other activities also that take place on Aliday. Being a global event, it is celebrated at every Alibaba office all around the world in its own style, on the 10th day of May.

All employees with their family members are invited to the Alibaba offices all around the world. Fun activities are organised for the children of the employees. The staff is given an opportunity to showcase individual talents, in dance and music, in front of senior executives. Older family members can get their blood pressure and eye sight checked.

In India, Alibaba employees from Delhi and Bangalore travelled to the Mumbai office for a fun-filled day. They participated in a unique coffee painting workshop through which they created special souvenirs to take back home to their families – as a gesture of appreciation for all the support that their families provide them with.

There is another inspirational story about the significance of Aliday. In November 2002, when Alibaba was just a four-year old company, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), a lethal disease, spread across China. In the following May, an employee showed symptoms of SARS on returning from a business trip. As a precautionary measure, the Company decided to vacate the office premises. Its 400 staff members stayed in self-imposed quarantine. This crisis struck at a very bad time too — just when Alibaba was planning to launch Taobao, a consumer-facing shopping website in the following month. It was impossible for the Company to suspend operations.

To some employees it appeared to be the end of Alibaba. But surprisingly, it turned out be a watershed moment for the Company, defining its approach to work.

The commitment and resilience shown by the Alibaba employees was much more than the SARS crisis could handle!

The employees did head home, vacating the office, but they also carried their work with them. They went home with their computers, phones and all the paperwork. For eight whole days their homes functioned as their office, and in some cases the family members also pitched in to attend customer phone calls, and also ensure that the employees were well fed. After all, they were doing all they could to keep Alibaba afloat.

Interestingly, none of the customers of Alibaba sensed anything. Work just went on as usual.

In 2005, Ma decided to mark 10 May, the day when Taobao was launched, as Aliday. This day dedicated to celebrating the undying spirit of its employees which turned Alibaba into a multi-billion dollar company.

“Every 10th of May, we host a series of activities to acknowledge and inspire the spirit of Alibaba in every Aliren. You will see, hear and feel the corporate values of Alibaba in the stories of the people around us. You will know how these values have worked miracles in ordinary life,” Ma mentions in the 2005 letter.

This is a classic way to celebrate the efforts of the employees who showed the intent to stand by the Company in a crisis and made sure that it survived the turbulent times. This shows how strong the culture of Alibaba is and the level of commitment the employees have towards the success of the Company.

If you have any such story about your company, please feel free to share it in the comments box.

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