Entrepreneurs

Jack Ma

Jack Ma biography
Photo: World Economic Forum / CC BY-SA 2.0

Jack Ma biography

Ma Yun, nicknamed Jack Ma, was born on September 10 of 1964 in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province in China. He is known to be the richest businessman in China, according to Forbes magazine. He is the president of the Alibaba consortium, which sells and distributes products on the Internet, internationally. As a child, he became interested in learning English. He studied it daily, practiced talking with foreigners at the Hangzhou hotel, traveled daily, about an hour by bicycle, to get to that hotel. For 9 long years, he became a tour guide in exchange for practicing his English, a circumstance that, by maintaining a friendship by correspondence, gave him a nickname that came from his friend. Jack was his nickname, it was easier for his foreign friends than his real name.

It would be thought that, because he is the man with the greatest economic power in his country, his intellectual development would be quite agile and solid. Jack’s story demonstrates the opposite: it takes four years to pass college entrance exams; partly because of the annuity in which they were presented. He entered Hangzhou Normal University to study English. He graduated in 1988 with a B.A. in English. He married, in the year of 1980, with Zhang Ying. He worked as a teacher, along with his wife, at Hangzhou Dianzi University; and, in parallel, he began studying at Cheung Kong to study business. Ma graduated in Beijing in 2006. For the year of 1995, Ma created the Yellow Pages section on the Internet. The portal is considered as the first Internet company in China.

The appearance of the Alibaba group was in 1999 as a project to interconnect users with the product directly. The idea was born in the United States, a day when Ma wanted to buy a beer, but the Qingdao brand was not available in that place. He thought there should be a way to connect it to that product and decided to create a page to provide this service. The name comes from the story Alibaba and the 40 thieves. Jack thinks that Alibaba was not a thief, he was a man who, with his intelligence, helped the people of his village. Another reason to use that name is due to the universality in different languages. The name is easy to pronounce and relate by foreigners or Chinese.

The first field in which Alibaba worked was in B2B or business to business, relating business between companies. The company grew with the implementation of a platform to connect Chinese companies with other companies abroad. The platform streamlined procedures in search of products, security, and communication. Over time, groups were created that joined Alibaba, using an option similar to Paypal called Alipay. The growth of the consortium reaches more than seven hundred subscribers. The record of 105 million paid in less than 24 hours. The new payment system gave way to a new project called Taobao, a portal dedicated mainly to the B2B and C2C connections between companies, just like Alibaba did at the beginning.

Currently, 80% of trade in China moves thanks to Alibaba. It has clients including large international brands to small Latin American companies. In its catalog, you can find clothes, technological devices, food, and crafts. The only company that is compared, in terms of volume of merchandise, is Walmart. The shares that Yahoo had within the consortium were reduced, in 2012, to only 22%. If that were the case, Alibaba could buy Yahoo and in a short time recover the investment showing that the metaphor of “open sesame” is real.

In 2007, when it comes to business ecology, Ma decided not to consume food with shark fins. In this way, he began to show interest in environmental care. In the month of January 2009, supporting its declarations, Alibaba implemented the policy of banning shark fin products. In addition to the ecological approach, it also launched a campaign to resist the economic recession, claiming that large companies owe their origin to ideas that others did not see. In 2010, he allocated 0.3% of his income for environmental care. The aid is intended, mainly, for the improvement of water and air. In this way, Jack Ma found, with Alibaba, the solution to the need of the Chinese entrepreneur. He understood the inability to relate internationally and created the link that would boost the economy of his country. Ma, aware of himself and his own idea, decided to give up the executive management of Alibaba to make way for the young mind. In 2012 he wanted to invest in the New York Stock Exchange, achieving an increase of around 20,000 million dollars.

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