What do we need to launch a startup company? Is it money, intelligence or expertise in the computer field?
When Bill Gates and Steve Jobs of Microsoft and Apple, were running their companies successfully, without any of the characteristics mentioned above, there was one person in China who dreamed big of launching his own startup company.
His name is Jack Ma (original name Ma Yun). He is the founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group, an e-commerce giant. If China has entered the international market, it is only because of Jack Ma.
Alibaba stands in eighth place among the world’s largest companies. That is why he is considered to be one of the most powerful persons in the world. He says that you will find an opportunity in every problem.
The development of your company depends on how well you tackle any problem. The bigger the problems you tackle, the greater will be the development of your company. Jack Ma was once the richest man in China.
Childhood and early adulthood
Jack Ma was born on October 15, 1964, in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China. Ma had an enormous longing to learn English, so when he was just 12, he woke up at 5 am every morning and rides his bicycle to the only hotel in his Hangzhou hometown, and offers to act as a free tour guide for the tourists that stayed at the hotel.
It was a way he could converse with them and then practice and perfect his English. He did this every day for nine years. He made a lot of friends during this period and would eventually travel to visit one family in Australia.
After failing National College Entrance twice, Ma eventually entered the Hangzhou Teachers Institute. He graduated in 1988 and soon after, married his college sweetheart, Zhang Ying.
Establishment of Alibaba.com
In the year 1995, as a part of his translation company work, Jack Ma went to America. There he saw a computer and internet for the first time. He was surprised that you could search for any information on the internet and he searched for the word ‘beer.’
He got information about the beers of all the countries except China. Then and there he decided that he must start a Chinese website. But he needed $3000 and so he approached many banks for a loan, but the banks rejected his request. He also approached about 40 venture capitalists for money, but everyone refused to give him money.
So, finally, he borrowed money from his relatives and started the first Chinese website called “China Pages.” You could search for any information about China on this website. But at that time most of the Chinese were not aware of the internet. They did not have computers either.
As the money he borrowed gradually dwindled away, he had to close his most loved new venture. After the failure of his first venture, he got a government job in the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Corporation.
But in a few years, he quit that job and started a new company, “Alibaba,” with his seventeen friends in his apartment. With this website, many small businessmen could sell their wares all over the world.
Why the name Alibaba?
Jack was always sure that he wanted to take his company to the global level and that is why he wanted a universal name. Alibaba is easy to spell, and people knew “Open Sesame,” the command that was used by Ali Baba in the story “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” to open doors to hidden treasures.
But many newspapers and media discouraged this online business of Alibaba by saying that it was a stupid idea and it was difficult to get profits through such a company. They also said that this company would not survive long.
At that time everyone called Jack Ma “Crazy Jack”. In a short time, the dot com bubble burst and many internet-based companies suffered huge losses, including Alibaba. Some companies also shut down. Within the first three years Alibaba did not earn even one dollar of profit, and once in a while Ma did not have the money to pay salaries to his employees.
Yet two companies, Goldman Sachs and Softbank invested $25 million in Alibaba. With this, Ma got the much-needed support to expand his company. The Alibaba team also started Taobao.com, which was an online shopping website.
This was a direct challenge to the dominance of EBay. Gradually, with its carefully planned business strategies, Alibaba became one of the best e-commerce platforms in China. Later Jack Ma also started Alipay for making online payments.
Even this was criticized by many initially, but now about one billion people are using it. Alibaba now also has many other businesses like Yunos, Weibo and AutoNavi to name a few. These days most of the businesses in China are somehow affiliated with Alibaba Group.
Jack Ma Daily Routine
There is a sentiment that forms the core of Jack Ma’s lifestyle. He says he always tells himself that we are born here to enjoy life and not to slog. We are here not to work, but to do better things for one another.
If you are spending most of your life working, you will definitely regret it. Because of this sentiment, Jack Ma gets up early, somewhere between 6 and 7 am, and puts every second to use by enjoying it. He starts his day by exercising, and he has a personal tai chi trainer who travels with him when required.
He normally works for half an hour and then spends time with his family. Jack Ma says that those who can stick to a 996 schedule (which refers to working 12 hours a day from 9 am to 9 pm and six days a week) are the people who have found their passion beyond monetary gains. Ma spends most of his time flying all over the world.
Business Lesson From Jack Ma
Following are the success principles followed by Jack Ma that can be emulated by all aspiring businessmen.
1. The sky is the limit for your business
In our current internet era, you do not need money to launch a startup. What is required is a good idea and the dedication to work hard to make it happen. If you have these two and a little luck, your startup can be a hit.
When it is that easy, you may ask why many people do not start a business. The hang-up is that most people think it is very difficult. Everyone is of the opinion that it is difficult to compete with Google and Facebook.
But remember that all the billionaires too had the same thoughts when they launched their startups. Since they did not stop there and overcame those hurdles, they are successful today. In 1999, even Jack Ma was of the same opinion.
Though he had the brilliant idea of the Alibaba e- commerce site, at that time only 1% of the Chinese population was using the internet. Then, from among that 1%, how many would be interested in buying things online?
Normally, even if a salesperson asks you in person to buy a dictionary, you think twice before you buy it. You won’t readily buy things online. Under such circumstances Jack Ma, who was earlier just a normal middle class English teacher earning $20 per month, developed his company into an 80% e-commerce market leader in China.
He attributes his success to his lack of knowledge of computers. He is not a coding genius like Bill Gates, not a marketing genius like Steve Jobs; his only ambition was to establish Alibaba as a standard company.
2. Proceed by overcoming the barriers
These days, there are many budding entrepreneurs. But why are only a few among them successful? This is because many of these budding entrepreneurs have only short-term goals and want to earn money in a very short period.
They also want to earn money in shortcut ways. By taking such a limited view, they are making a grave mistake. When you start any company, you should be able to forecast what your company will do after 50 years.
When Jack Ma planned his company Alibaba, he knew his company would be there for another 80 years. When asked now, he says it will be there for another 102 years. He planned his company to be a standard long-term company.
Because of this, he says, there will be planning in the tasks you do every day. For instance, there was great pressure to make Alibaba a public company, and it was even something that Ma wanted to do. Yet he postponed his decision, having weighed the pros and cons of his company going public and deciding against it.
Another barrier that appeared in Jack Ma’s path came via Yahoo. During a period of time when Ma was raising cash looking for any partners to invest in Alibaba, Yahoo offered to invest 40% in the company.
Jack Ma thought it was a good idea to partner with Yahoo. However, the Yahoo group asked to change Alibaba to Yahoo Alibaba and Jack Ma declined. As he had created his company with so much of his own hard work, he did not want to tag the name Yahoo to his company’s name. So he declined the offer.
3. Customers should be the first priority for your company
It is only when your customers trust your company that your company will be successful. It is not a cake walk, and you have to work really hard for it. When the Alibaba Company was started, it worked very hard for its investors.
It made a partnership with a few international websites and invested heavily in promotion. It wanted to start a company in Silicon Valley for the investors. But all these attempts failed. When Jack Ma decided that customers should be the first priority for his company, the fate of Alibaba changed.
With this objective in mind, Jack Ma started an e-commerce website with a customer-to-customer platform in 2003 and named it ‘Taobao.” Any customer could sell his products on that platform and there was also a facility for the customers to chat with one another with the help of a chat box provided.
Because of this, confidence developed between customers. In addition to this, he made this Taobao service totally free for three years. That is, there were no third party charges on the customers.
At that time eBay company in China laughed at it, scoffing about what he might possibly earn by making the services free. But by the year 2006 when Taobao captured the entire e-commerce market, eBay shut down its company in China.
4. Search for profits in losses
Jack Ma always changes the challenges he faces into his favor. When he started his company, there were very few internet users in China. Jack Ma thought it was enough if he could get the population’s 1% of internet users to his website.
During that time, China had stringent laws on internet business. It was because of this reason that even companies like Google could not start their business in China.
At that time, what Jack Ma realized is that if he could create employment opportunities for the Chinese and follow certain ethics in his business, the Chinese laws could be modified in his favor, and he worked with this belief.
In 2003, one of the employees of Alibaba fell ill with a virus. Because of this, he decided to send all his employees home. The employees were asked to work from home, and in this way he continued the work of Alibaba while caring for his staff.
Even the Chinese e-commerce users supported his company Alibaba, by buying goods only from Alibaba and not from anywhere else. It is at this time most of the e-commerce users started believing and buying from Alibaba. This is how Alibaba achieved success.
5. Enjoy the competition
When you start a company with a new idea, do you think that only your company will be there in the market? Many similar companies will start cropping up. But not all the companies will be successful and only a few will achieve success.
When you start a company similar to an existing company, unless you incorporate new ideas into it, people will look at your company as an imitation of the existing company. When Jack Ma started Taobao, he did not develop it similarly to eBay, instead he got his website designed to align with the Chinese culture.
With its customer-to-customer platform, Taobao became relationally connected to the Chinese people. As the seller and consumer could talk directly by phone, Jack Ma was indeed successful in taking Taobao to people.
Jack Ma always saw competition as healthy. He never wanted to be on bad terms with anybody. eBay, however, did not view Alibaba as healthy competition and instead literally made it into a war. eBay invited the Taobao team for a few of their events, but never gave them respect.
By such misconduct, they spoiled their relationship with Jack Ma. Later, when eBay tried to go for a partnership with Alibaba it was too late, as Jack Ma had already started making negotiations with Yahoo. That is why you need to always deal with your competitors in a friendly manner.
6. Make decisions without fear for the development of your company
When your company is developing, there may be circumstances when you have to make bold decisions. When you feel that a particular decision will be beneficial to your company, you should not fear to make such decisions, especially if you can do so without losing your employees’ confidence.
For instance, from the time Ma started Alibaba until it developed as the biggest e- commerce website in the world, he had made many decisions bravely, without a second thought. Starting the website as a free marketplace, knowing that the company could be made public, but postponing it—these were bold decisions.
Some decisions need to be made bravely. Some decisions question our genuineness. In such cases, if you feel that your decision will help your company to move forward, you have to stick to that decision.
In the year 2000, Jack Ma faced a financial crisis. Though his customers and popularity were increasing, as there were no profits for the company, he faced the reality of failure. Jack Ma removed half of his staff in the U.S. office after just one month of opening that office. Though such decisions are difficult, he had to do it for the benefit of his company.
7. Your subordinates should understand your ideas
When you establish an organization, the most important thing to be considered is recruitment. This task has to be done very carefully because your employees form the foundation for the success of your company. Normally, while recruiting, we want to recruit people who are highly qualified and have good experience.
But what is most important is that the person you recruit should love your idea and work day and night for the development of your company, as you do. In 2000 Porter Erisman joined Alibaba. He, being an American, put all the westerners in one office and the Chinese in another office.
The westerners used to work in their office, and the Chinese did not know what was happening in the Westerners’ section. Then Porter realized that it was a very bad idea to separate the Westerners and Chinese, because Jack Ma’s ideas were not getting conveyed to all the employees.
When Alibaba started, Jack Ma made many of his employees his partners and they toiled very hard for the development of the company. An employee should have the intention to work in your company genuinely, without needing to be forced to work.
In the year 2001 Alibaba combined both the offices into one, as Westerners were not able to understand Alibaba’s core values. With this and with the combined effort of all the employees, Alibaba emerged as the world’s largest e-commerce platform. Jack Ma’s business strategy is very simple.
To be successful, even if you do not have the money, intelligence or experience, if you learn how to run a company with team building, bold decisions and customer satisfaction, you can launch a new startup company.
By learning how a Chinese company has given stiff competition to American companies, we can understand how well-planned and hardworking Jack Ma is. By walking in Jack Ma’s footsteps and following his ideas, even your company can reach higher levels.
How To Become Successful Like Jack Ma? My Recommendation For You
Success is a concept that means something different to everyone. Whether it means having a great career, a house, or a family, success is something everyone strives for. It makes you proud, it inspires you, and it lets you know that you have made a difference in a competitive world.
However, success is not something you achieve without making an effort. It’s a mindset you must acquire to achieve your goals and grow as a person, and that takes hard work.
To become successful, there is nothing better than starting a business.
Thanks to the Internet, the world has undergone a massive change in recent years. Making money online has become much easier nowadays.
You can learn how to build a digital asset that generates cash flow for you while you sleep in order to grow your wealth fast.