Jack Ma made his first trip to Africa on Thursday, July 20, 2017. The founder of the Chinese e-commerce company, Alibaba, visited Kenya in the first leg of a two-state trip that will have him also going to Rwanda. But what exactly do we know about Jack Ma and his road to success?
Jack Ma Biography
Jack Ma was born Ma Yun on the 10th of September 1964 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China. He studied English at a young age and would often practice it with tourists at Hangzhou international hotel. His passion for business was also evident at the time as he worked and ran a tour business for tourists looking to go sight-seeing around the city. It was during this time that he got nicknamed Jack by a tourist who later became pen pals with him but could not pronounce his name.
Jack Ma then struggled to go to college, failing the entrance exam three times. He later attended Hangzhou Teacher’s Institute which is currently known as the Hangzhou Normal University at his fourth attempt of trying. He graduated in 1988 with a B.A. in English. Upon graduation, Ma began lecturing English and International Trade at Hangzhou Dianzi University.
In the mid-1990’s Jack got to know about the existence of the internet and began seeing this new trend in technology as a great business opportunity.
Sometime in the mid-1990’s, Ma heard about the internet and began to see it as a great business opportunity. He would routinely travel to the United States to learn more about it before going ahead to set up his first internet-based business. The company focused on creating websites for clients and was very successful. His success did not go unnoticed as he got appointed the head of an IT firm governed by the Chinese government in 1998.
About a year later, Ma quit his role at the firm to set up another business, Alibaba, a China-based business-to-business marketplace site, which has changed his life.
Ma is married to Zhang Ying. The couple had first met at Hangzhou Normal University. They got married shortly after graduating in the late 1980s.
Both Ma and his wife worked as teachers after graduating. She even played an important role in initiating his first business venture. They have a son and a daughter together.
Jack Ma’s Visit To Kenya
The business man’s visit was heavily anticipated and celebrated. He gave a public lecture at the University of Nairobi where he discussed the value of constant learning and the power of the internet and all the many things that can be achieved with a combination of the two.
He shared insights with African entrepreneurs who seem more able to relate to his success because, like many African entrepreneurs, Ma went through almost all the same challenges.
He is a success that was filled with incredible struggle; he applied for 30 jobs, including at KFC when it opened in his home city of Hangzhou and was rejected from all of them.
Although we may not be privy to the plans that were made when Jack Ma held talks with Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta to discuss ways of empowering the youth through entrepreneurship, we can certainly learn from his words at the University of Nairobi.
Business Tips From Jack Ma’s Public Lecture
- Problems in your society are actually a source of inspiration for business. Jack Ma noted that Africa’s poor infrastructure, social, economic and political situation should be a source of innovation for most entrepreneurs. He said that the lack of e-commerce in his home country inspired him to start one of the biggest online marketplaces.
- He touched on the usefulness of failure and how it should be a catalyst for innovation and progress. According to him; “You have to get used to failure. If you can’t, then how can you win.”
- He insisted that being successful is not just about education and what you know, but rather about the opportunities you grab
- Jack Ma stated that the future belongs to ‘netpreneurs’; people who use the net to do business. According to him, 80-90% businesses in the future will be online.
- One thing that the net helps us to do is go beyond our localities and Jack Ma stresses that this will be important in the future. According to him, in a few years, if you are not selling worldwide, you will not be in business.
- African entrepreneurs need to embrace technology because technology opens us up to opportunities that we would not normally have.
- He tried to disabuse us of the notion of striving to be number 1, saying instead that we need to strive to be the best in helping people become better. You should not focus on money but on getting the respect of the people you have helped.
- Jack Ma stressed that computers are only a frontage or a platform in eCommerce; it is a person to person business and the communication should remain human.
- The opportunity for Africa in the internet age is massive; the population is young and the market is still very huge.
- The eCommerce infrastructure in Africa is not very well developed and this creates an opportunity for people to work on providing a new and convenient shopping space.
- Africa is unique and better in so many ways than other parts of the world and African entrepreneurs need to protect that and take advantage of it.
- According to Jack Ma, the rules of business are: Customer First, Employee second, Shareholder last.
- He also touched on the importance of hiring women because they are structured to care about everyone else.
- Entrepreneurs should not fear mistakes but learn from them.
- The past and where you come from does not matter, you can do what you want to do.
Quick Facts, House
Birth Name: Ma Yun
Place Of Birth: Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China.
Birth Date: September 10, 1964
Sun Sign: Virgo
Occupation: Businessman; Founder & Executive Chairman Of Alibaba Group
Net Worth: $40.3 Billion
Residence: Jack Ma lives in a 9,890-square-feet luxury house in Hong Kong which he bought for a jaw-dropping $193 million. It is said to be the second-most expensive home in the world.