I don’t know Jack Ma personally, even though he is from my hometown Hangzhou (for those who don’t know where Hangzhou is, it is a main city of Zhejiang province on the coast, only a couples of hours from Shanghai). I didn’t pay much attention to him even though he is running an empire of B2B online trading company – Alibaba.
Coming from a society where much attention is paid to scholarly achievement, someone with Harvard MBA will naturally catch my attention first. A former English teacher becomes a successful businessman? There are many reasons one can succeed in the business world, I told myself, for example, luck is one.
When Jack Ma launched Taobao – an online auction site in 2003 to compete directly with the global giant eBay, I started to look at him differently. After all, it takes some guts to do things like this. Just like nobody wants to compete with Microsoft (of course many did), it’s almost pointless to fight against eBay. Of course, the deal was backed up by Softbank which successfully helped Yahoo! Japan to defeat eBay in Japanese battleground.
The recent deal that Jack Ma sold 40% of his company to Yahoo! for $1 billion and still maintained the leadership position made me feel completely in awe. It marks a supreme vote of confidence in Jack Ma. Interestingly enough, among the successful Chinese entrepreneurs, Jack Ma is the only one without western education. His business savvy and unusual personality can certainly put all the MBAs in shame.
As fragile as he looks physically, Jack Ma has high aspirations and sets his sights on the global stage.