In 1997, a health dietary product was launched in China’s nascent nutritional supplement market. Blue boxes of “Nao Bai Jin” (literally “Brain Platinum”) flooded the convenience stores, supermarkets and drug stores all across the country, together with relentless marketing on prime time television. The product is said to be composed of a unique ingredient called melatonin that has wholesome effect to our brains and had been made popular in developed regions like North America and Western Europe.
With “Nao Bai Jin” becoming a popular gift among people in rural areas, people began to wonder who’s responsible for the enormous success of this simple product. In 2000, some media reported that the mastermind behind this product was a software engineer named Shi Yuzhu. The company he founded, the Zhuhai Giant Group, rose to nationwide fame in early to mid-1990s, but fell to bankruptcy in 1997. Shi was ranked by Forbes as the eighth wealthiest person in China in 1995 and was idolized as the model entrepreneur by the public. His meteoric rise can only be equaled to his monumental failure when he incurred a debt of over 250 million RMB within a period of five years. Soon after, Shi staged one of the most remarkable comeback in history with the launch of Nao Bai Jin, which generated billions in sales. Since then, Shi has created other successful product franchises in the health and wine industry, and founded an online games company that went public on the NASDAQ in 2007. Rumor has it that Shi is now moving into the financial sector, after he made personal investments in two local private banks.
Throughout his career, Shi Yuzhu has created several successful ventures. For the purpose of this assignment we will focus primarily on the Nao Bai Jin business, as it marked an extraordinary startup journey led by a more seasoned, tactful Shi Yuzhu. To that end, our group conducted secondary research and read through a number of biographical publications before we visited Goldpartner Biotech, a subsidiary of Giant Group, on May 26, to interview Shi Yuzhu’s second-in-command, Ms. Cheng Chen, who has worked alongside Shi for over 16 years. . Part I
Shi Yuzhu was born on September 12, 1962 in Huaiyuan, a small city in Anhui province. He lived in this small city for 18 years until he graduated from Huaiyuan High School. Shi then continued his study in Zhejiang University which is located in Hangzhou.
While studying in Zhejiang University, Shi majored in Mathematics. At first, he aspired to become a mathematician, but after the first semester he noticed that his classmates were all as bright as him, and Mathematics was more difficult than he thought. He realized that his dream could not come true, but nevertheless, he still harbored the idea to do something extraordinary.
After graduating from Zhejiang University, he began to work at Statistical Bureau of Anhui Province. Not long after, the seniors at the Statistical Bureau sent Mr. Yuzhu Shi to Xi’an Statistical College. While there, Shi studied under an American professor who was nicknamed the father of sampling survey. As fate would have it, Shi learned modern methods of sampling survey under his tutelage, though not knowing that this knowledge would be so important to him in future.
When Shi came back from the Statistical College, he persuaded his superior to buy a computer, which was rare at that time in China. With this computer, Shi began to learn programming on his own. He developed a software program which helped to analyze the data collected from sampling survey. With the help of this program, he could easily tell what kind of products the peasants with income more than 400 RMB would want to buy and what their consumer characteristics were. This software was so successful that it was adopted by many other provinces. Based on the data he got from his analytical software, Shi published a number of articles on a reputable academic journal. One...
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