The rise of Alibaba & the role of one man: Jack Ma
August 27, 2014
It is a business that started in an apartment in a largely unknown city (outside of China) called Hangzhou by a guy called Jack Ma and 18 others back in 1999. Today it reportedly has control of 80% of China e-commerce market and to put things in equal perspective the business raised $25 million at its inception and, by all accounts, in 2012 two of the company’s portals handled more than US $170 Billion in transactions. Who is the business? Chinese home bred Alibaba.
The business is as about as diverse in the internet and e-commerce business as it can get and probably one of the master strokes was forming a strategic partnership with Yahoo back in 2005 that saw the business take control of Yahoo’s China operations. Now, keep in mind that Google, Facebook, Twitter and others are largely “unavailable” in China as is YouTube so wasn’t it always the case that a home grown business would be able to tap into the desire of Chinese consumers to interact the same way we do on social networks but within the frame of the Chinese regulatory environment?
So, we wanted to plot the rise of Alibaba because, all things considered, they are about to go public in the United States having (on May 6th) filed registration documents that could see the business undertake one of the largest public offerings in US history. That is keeping in mind that Facebook raised $16 billion in 2012 at a time when it was able to penetrate most markets other than China.
The growth potential for Alibaba is having grown in the hardest to grow market (China – mainly because of internet restrictions) it stands to reason that it will be a lot easier to grow outside because it may not face the same sort of regulatory constraints. One could argue that Alibaba is already preparing the groundwork by investing in a range of Chinese based companies from the micro blogging service Weibo and car sharing service Lyft. In terms of the latter how easy could it be to take the disruptive model of an UBER head on?
It all comes down to the sophistication of one man – the company founder and shareholder Jack Ma who has stepped into the role of Executive Chairman. Like many internet entrepreneurs he sees innovation on top of pre-existing products by identifying gaps in markets – but more importantly he has already done what the west is trying to do – conquer China. With the Chinese market sewn up he can focus his energy on a global strategy as opposed to just local.
Take a look at what Jack Ma told Vulcan Post about entrepreneurship:
Jack Ma: The mistake I regretted the most
In 2001, I made a mistake. I told 18 of my fellow comrades whom embarked on the entrepreneurship journey with me that the highest positions they could go was a managerial role. To fill all our Vice President and Senior Executive positions, we would have to hire from external parties. Years later, those I hired were gone, but those whom I doubted their abilities became Vice Presidents or Directors. I believe in two principles: Your attitude is more important than your capabilities. Similarly, your decision is more important than your capabilities!
Jack Ma: You cannot unify everyone’s thoughts, but you can unify everyone through a common goal.
Don’t even trust that you are able to unify what everyone is thinking; it is impossible.
30% of all people will never believe you. Do not allow your colleagues and employees to work for you. Instead, let them work for a common goal.
It is a lot easier to unite the company under a common goal rather than uniting the company around a particular person.
Jack Ma: What does a leader have that an employee doesn’t?
A leader should never compare his technical skills with his employee’s. Your employee should have superior technical skills than you. If he doesn’t, it means you have hired the wrong person.
What, then, makes the leader stands out?
A leader should be a visionary and have more foresight than an employee.
A leader should have higher grit and tenacity, and be able to endure what the employees can’t.
A leader should have higher endurance and ability to accept and embrace failure.
The quality of a good leader therefore is his vision, tenacity, and his capability.
Jack Ma: Don’t be involved in politics
One should always understand that money and political power can never go hand in hand. Once you are in politics, don’t ever think about money anymore. Once you are running a business, don’t ever think of being involved in politics.
When money meets political power, it is similar to a match meeting an explosive- waiting to go off.
Jack Ma: The 4 main questions the young generation must ponder on
What is failure: Giving up is the greatest failure.
What is resilience: Once you have been through hardships, grievances and disappointments, only then will you understand what is resilience.
What your duties are: To be more diligent, hardworking, and ambitious than others.
Only fools use their mouth to speak. A smart man uses his brain, and a wise man uses his heart.
Jack Ma: We are born to live and experience life.
I always tell myself that we are born here not to work, but to enjoy life. We are here to make things better for one another, and not to work. If you are spending your whole life working, you will certainly regret it.
No matter how successful you are in your career, you must always remember that we are here to live. If you keep yourself busy working, you will surely regret it.
Jack Ma on competing and competition
Those that compete aggressively with one another are the foolish ones.
If you view everyone as your enemies, everyone around you will be your enemies.
When you are competing with one another, don’t bring hatred along. Hatred will take you down.
Competition is similar to playing a board of chess. If you lose, we can always have another round. Both players should never fight.
A real businessman or entrepreneur has no enemies. Once he understand this, the sky’s the limit.
Jack Ma: Don’t make complaining and whining a habit
If you complain or whine once in a while, it is not a big deal. However, if it becomes habitual, it will be similar to drinking: the more you drink, the stronger the thirst. On the path to success, you will notice that the successful ones are not whiners, nor do they complain often.
The world will not remember what you say, but it will certainly not forget what you have done.
Jack Ma’s advice to entrepreneurs
The opportunities that everyone cannot see are the real opportunities.
Always let your employees come to work with a smile.
Customers should be number 1, Employees number 2, and then only your Shareholders come at number 3.
Adopt and change before any major trends or changes.
Forget the money; Forget about earning money.
Rather than having small smart tricks to get by, focus on holding on and persevering.
Your attitude determines your altitude.
Jack Ma on entrepreneurship
A great opportunity is often hard to be explained clearly; things that can be explained clearly are often not the best opportunities.
You should find someone who has complementary skills to start a company with. You shouldn’t necessarily look for someone successful. Find the right people, not the best people.
The most unreliable thing in this world is human relationships.
“Free” is the most expensive word.
Today is cruel, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be beautiful.
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