Chinese Entrepreneur in the Internet Age
--Story of MaYun and Alibaba
In network age, the pattern and rate of economic growth experience tremendous changes and starting from the US, internet entrepreneurs have become new aristocracies of the Wealth-Bulletin. However, commercial miracles of internet industry not only take place in Silicon Valley. And on the ancient east land, a young internet entrepreneur has written a new business legend with his vision, courage and leadership. MaYun, born in poverty but full of foresight and ambition, has led his team to generate billions of annual profits and demonstrated a credible example of how a small start-up company can eventually make it big in the global economy through the internet. This article mainly aims at exploring the leadership of MaYun and drawing lessons from it.
Ma was born in September 10, 1964 up in Hangzhou, China. He was 12 years old when he became interested in learning English. The backdrop of the Chinese Cultural Revolution and Ma’s eagerness to learn what goes on beyond the confines of his neighborhood convinced him of his own exciting future. It does not mean that he abhorred his life in Hangzhou. The change in thinking did not happen overnight. It was not a story of a man deciding to take the quicker route by simply packing his bags and leaving for the big city. Ma took his sweet time learning on his own, practicing his English, and devoting volunteer work as a tour guide for a hotel at West Lake, a tourist area in Hangzhou. For Ma, the work meant a forty-minute biking trip every workday. He patiently kept this routine for eight years. In 1979, Ma met an Australian family. The friendship and regular correspondence led to Ma’s month-long stay in Australia in 1985. What he saw and experienced in Australia confirmed what was slowly taking place in his mind: there is indeed a bigger world out there, a world that he can explore and beckon to his own liking. However, he was still struggling with his education and career. He flunked his entrance examinations at Hangzhou Teachers University, not once but twice. After graduation, he ended up in a teaching job that paid him RMB100 to RMB120 (about $12-$15) a month. He stayed with this job for five years. Yet, even with teaching experience, it was still difficult to find a job. He even applied for a secretarial job at Kentucky Fried Chicken but he was rejected. In 1995, he became part of a business delegation (as an interpreter) to Seattle and at that time, he discovered the internet. In his own words, “We searched the word beer on Yahoo and discovered that there was no data about China. We decided to launch a website and registered the name China Pages”. With borrowed $2,000 and knowing nothing about computers, he established the company, which later competed with China Telecom (CT). They were later offered a joint venture by CT, but the deal did not last long. By his own admission, “it was like an elephant and an ant”. Ma eventually quit from the venture and went to Beijing to promotee-commerce through a government group. His appetite for e-commerce has grown by the time he gathered 18 friends in his apartment in 1999. From that meeting, $60,000 was raised to start Alibaba, the name picked by Ma because of its popularity.
Values and Leadership Philosophy
Many are still wondering about the kind of power Ma possesses. It seems right to categorize him as some kind of techie guru or a brilliant businessman with a keen instinct for profit but he is, on the surface, just a regular guy who believes in simple principles.
1. Customer first. The interests of the community of users and paying members must be their top priority. 2. Teamwork. Ma expects his employees to collaborate as a team. He encourages input from his employees in the decision-making process, and commit to the team’s objectives. 3. Embracing change. His team operates in a fast-evolving industry. Ma asks his...
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