Jack Ma, the richest person in China, has announced that he will be stepping down as the executive chairman from the Alibaba group in Sept 2019 at a whooping age of 54 years. This is an unconventional move considering many Chinese leaders don’t back down even at very old age. And while there is a scope in taking his creation to even greater heights, the man has decided to explore newer avenues in education and philanthropy, as he mentioned in his talk with Vladimir Putin. But let’s take a step back and look into this legend’s story from how he got rejected from places like KFC to how he built the multinational internet-based company.
Born on September 10th, 1964 to a poor family in Hangzhou, Jack Ma, from a young age, was quite the rebel and fought many times with his classmates. He was introverted and enjoyed spending his time on reading books and collecting crickets. A very consistent trait with his character is that he always springs upon any opportunity when presented. For example after President Nixon made a visit to his hometown, foreign tourism flourished and he used this chance to informally educate himself in English.
Jack Ma’s education history is quite “humorous”, like he mentions in one of his interviews. He actually failed to get into a primary and middle school on his first try. And since he had no proper financial backing, the only thing he could after high school was to try applying for colleges. He failed the entrance exams - twice in fact . After some hardcore cramming, he finally got into Hangzhou Teacher's Institute. But this wasn't really the end because it was time to look for jobs.
He applied for about 30 jobs and ALL of them rejected him. He was rejected by the police saying that he wasn’t good enough. KFC, whose branch was very new in his place, had 24 applicants and 23 got accepted - he was the one who got the pass. After churning through all the options available, he finally got accepted as an English teacher with a meager salary of $12 a month. Truly this man faced numerous rejections from unexpected places. Heck, he even applied for Harvard a couple of times knowing that he will not be even considered. However, he remembers this phase of his life not feeling ashamed but more determined.
During a trip to US as a translator for some business firm, he had his first dive into the world of internet. Fascinated by it, he became curious if he could purchase Chinese beer online. But to his surprise, he didn’t find results for many products from China. It was then it clicked to him that he should create a company catering internet services for China. “Open sesame” which was a popular phrase from ‘Alibaba and the Forty Thieves’ inspired his company’s name since his motive was to create a platform for mid-ranged businessmen, traders and salespersons for e-commerce, retail and other services around the globe.
It wasn’t really a jackpot. His first two ventures failed miserably until he gathered 17 of his trusted friends who invested in his idea. Slowly but surely, he began garnering more investors but the big break happened when Yahoo invested $1 billion on Alibaba and thus beating eBay in China. He was an entertaining boss who threw many parties and fun activities for his employees and on various occasions, he even performed tai chi, his favourite martial arts.
Currently Alibaba overtakes Walmart, Amazon and eBay combined in terms of sales and profits and has one of the biggest venture capital firms across the world. Jack Ma, however, still preaches the same noble ideology of improving business for everyone in a fun and comfortable environment. Speaking of which, he also takes great measurements in conserving environment and has funded 27,000 acres of natural reserves in China.
With him stepping down from his position like this, we can only look forward to what this brilliant entrepreneur has in store for all of us. Best wishes to him and his future endeavours!