Co-founder and former executive chairman of Alibaba Group Jack Ma is an example of perseverance, proactiveness and Innovation.
Born into a family that barely lived on a meal per day, Ma paced his way through to becoming Asia’s richest man. Currently, he is an Internet icon, business magnate, investor, politician and philanthropist with a net worth of $48.8 B as at 2019.
Jack Ma Early Life
Ma was born on 10 September 1964 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang. He began studying English at a young age by conversing with English-speakers at Hangzhou International Hotel. The chairman of Alibaba Group would ride 70 miles on his bicycle to give tourists tours of the area to practice his English for nine years. He became pen pals with one of those foreigners, who nicknamed him “Jack” because he found it hard to pronounce his Chinese name
Further, Jack Ma failed the Chinese national entrance exams twice. However, he went on to finish school and became an English teacher. Before then, Ma applied for a job at America’s fast-food brand, KFC, but was turned down. He has described himself as the father of failures.
Moreover, contrary to technology genius as Elon Musk, Ma came across the internet for the very first time in the US, in 1995. Consequently, the internet transformed his life. He noticed that there was little Chinese content online and as a result, launched the first-ever Chinese website, which later failed. He gained valuable experience from this and went on to launch Alibaba; an e-commerce platform that helps small business in China, in particular, to sell their products overseas.
Bloomberg 25 Jun 2018
Ma’s Success Journey
Despite all the barrier and failure, Ma was also sensitive to opportunities. The Asian’s richest man didn’t have any tech or business background. However, Jack Man managed to create Alibaba with the help of 17 friends in 1999. Today, Alibaba is a digital marketplace connected Chinese customers with manufacturers.
Alibaba’s start was initially rocky. It faced the internet boom in 2000 and competition from eBay‘s Chinese venture, EachNet. But with some help from investments from Yahoo, the company found its feet by the mid-2000s.
Then, in 2014, Alibaba went public in what was the largest IPO in US history. And the sale made Ma the richest man in China. Alibaba rakes in money through the retail site Taobao; the payment-processing service Alipay. In fact, Ma holds nearly 50% of its share. Its revenue also comes from popular Chinese social media site Weibo.
Nevertheless, Alibaba doesn’t just do e-commerce. Under Ma’s leadership, the company now owns the South China Morning Post. It also invested a movie studio that realised films such as “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” and “Star Trek Beyond.” Since Ma became executive chairman in 2013, Alibaba’s revenue has grown by 1,100%. In addition, in September 2019, the company’s market cap has reached $465 billion. And Ma’s 5.3% share in Alibaba? Well, it’s now worth a cool $24.6 billion.
Besides, beyond Alibaba, Ma’s income stream is impressively diverse. In 2010, Ma and four associates founded the venture-capital firm Yunfeng to handle much of Ma’s personal investing. Ma also has stakes in Yahoo China.
How Jack Ma spends his Billions
With billions in his pocket, you would think Jack Ma’s a big spender, right? Well, not exactly. This business genius drives a humble Roewe RX5 SUV that cost just $15,000. Also, he doesn’t spend much on hobbies, either. Ma loves meditating, playing poker, and practising tai chi; a hobby that led him to star in a kung fu film.
Nevertheless, if he does show off, it’s in real estate. In 2015, he reportedly bought a house in Hong Kong’s most expensive neighbourhood for a whopping $191 million. At the time, the purchase broke the record for the most expensive home by the square foot in Asia. He also dropped $23 million on a property in New York’s Adirondacks. And a year later, he bought a 210-acre vineyard in the south of France. Plus, he still owns the apartment at Lakeside Gardens where he started Alibaba 20 years ago.
So how does Ma travel between all these properties?
Through his Gulfstream g550 private jet purchased by Alibaba for $ 49.7 million. Alibaba also foots the bill for the legendary talent shows of which Ma is always front and centre. Ma’s talent-show performances have become the stuff of legends, from MJ dances to “Lion King” sing-alongs.
The most memorable celebration was Ma’s retirement party in September 2019. Alibaba rented out an Olympic-sized stadium for a massive ceremony with 60,000 employees. It included an employee parade, and a rendition of Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up” by Ma himself.
However, even with all his bashes and billions, Ma said he was happier when he was an English teacher. He noted his billions come with a responsibility to spend on behalf of society. Maybe that’s why he’s turned to philanthropic work aimed at healthcare, the environment, and education.
Jack Man Social Responsibility
Under Ma’s leadership, Alibaba donates 0.3% of earnings to environmental issues. The China richest man sits on the board of China’s Nature Conservancy and donated millions to disaster-relief efforts. The Jack Ma Foundation, formed in 2014, had pledged $44-million-plus both to Zhejiang University Hospital and rural Chinese teachers. With his newfound retirement and soaring investments, no one knows where Jack Ma will take his billions next. But it will probably include a killer outfit (The Telegraph, 2014).
Jack Ma is an example of the fact that your current situation does not determine your future. Every obstacle can be an opportunity; if you pay attention to what is around you. As De VICTORS says “Opportunities always lie in everyday challenges. The bigger the challenge, the bigger the opportunity”.
Therefore, Ma saw potential on the internet. But his lack of knowledge didn’t stop him from dreaming and believing in himself. As he says, he is a street smart, and he masters this on every speech. His level of confidence and positivity has hugely contributed to who he is today.