Today is cruel,

Tomorrow is cruellest,

And the day after

Tomorrow is beautiful… says Jack Ma aka Ma Yun, founder and executive chairman of Alibaba, a group of highly successful e-businesses.

Alibaba, his e-commerce company draws attention of 100 million customers per day. Also Jack Ma is worth an estimate $20.4 billion. But, how did this happen? Was he from a very rich family and was gifted with this established business. Answer is a big NO. His parents were traditional story tellers and that was their bread butter. He had an elder brother and a younger sister.

Since childhood, Ma had keen interest in learning new skills and improving his communication skills. So each morning he used to go to a nearby hotel where foreign tourists stayed and he would guide them around the city for free in exchange of which he took English lessons from them.

Knowledge of self is the mother of all knowledge and Jack Ma was well aware of his capabilities which the others could never see. And that self-awareness includes these four characteristics which express the whole story of his success, a complete one from rags to riches.

  1. Determination- Ma applied for admission in college but failed the entrance exam twice. Even after this he did not lose hope and prepared again for that exam and cleared it in third attempt and got admission in Hangzhou University. After his graduation in 1988, hunt for a good job started, but who knew many more obstacles were waiting to block his path. He applied for approximately 30 jobs and got rejected in all of them and KFC also was among those companies who rejected him. He did not let those rejections overpower his determination to succeed and finally he got his first job as an English teacher at Hangzhou Institute of Electronics and Engineering and was able to make $12 per month. He taught there for 5 years (1988-1993).
  1. Inventive mind- In 1994, Ma started his first company, Haibo Translation Agency, which provided English translation and interpretation. He was sent to United States on behalf of Hangzhou city government. On this trip his friend introduced him to internet for the first time. He told Ma that internet had information about everything, so Ma decided to search for beer but he was surprised to see that no Chinese beers were there in the available results. That very moment he decided to come up with an internet company for China and that was when he started his second company China Pages. This company was not a success as Ma was forced to leave that company after two years of its beginning as it was facing a strong competition from the company Chinesepages which was found by communication company Hangzhou Telecom.
  1. Mind of your own attitude- After failure of his first two ventures, Ma decided to come up with another internet company called “Alibaba”. He presented his idea to some of his friends and asked them to invest in his third venture Alibaba. This site gave exporters a chance to post product listings that customers could buy directly. Alibaba attracted customers from all around the world. By October 1999, the company had raised $5 million from Goldman Sachs and $20 million from SoftBank, a Japanese telecom company. Although the company made profits but there was something which required improvement. The company had no ways to do payments and no banks would work for them. So he decided to start his own payment program Alipay. At that time many people said that it was the stupidest idea that one could have but Ma decided to follow his instinct, his mind. And today approximately 800 million people use Alipay.
  1. Learning from mistakes- Yes, he made some mistakes but he was ready to rectify those mistakes and learn from them. When Alibaba started making profits, he decided to expand his operations and came up with another company Taobao, eBay’s competitor in 2000. The company was growing at a rapid rate but at the same time it was running short of cash and in 2001 Ma had to lay off his entire international staff. But Ma’s dedication to work and succeed, his never ending support which his employees always had with them and also those customers who did not know about the website and were still discovering news sites helped the company beat eBay. When Taobao started making profits at a rapid rate eBay offered to buy Taobao but Ma rejected this offer.

According to the reports, Taobao today is among the top 20 most-visited websites. And combined with another Alibaba site (Tmall), it had a total transaction volume of $240 billion.

Jack Ma is truly a person to learn from. He is a person with not just an innovative mind but with excellent leadership qualities as well. Jack Ma once said that “I don’t want to be liked. I want to be respected.” And truly he has earned that respect and today people know him as the “Godfather of China’s scrappy entrepreneurial spirit.”


Tanya Yadav

Tanya is a student at SSCBS, DU. The views expressed are based upon the analysis and research that the writer did on the topic from various books, reports and web articles.  The writer regularly writes for Corporate Monks as a research associate. The writer takes personal responsibility for the ownership of the content shared and incase some sources have not been given credit, you can directly mail the writer