Jack Ma is probably one of the most innovative founders and CEOs in the world. Not only has he changed the lives of billions of people, he’s done it in a scale that has rivalled the US and other countries. His brainchild, Alibaba, is worth more than $400 billion.
The journey wasn’t an easy one for Jack. He started out from humble beginnings and had little to no revenue to his name. He would constantly be pitching to friends and investors, so that he could start his venture in his native home of China. The worst part about this was that he was rejected from every job that he applied to. He didn’t get any response from even a job working at the counter at KFC. He didn’t have anywhere else to turn.
He even saw failure with the first two companies that he started. His third one – Alibaba, made him a billionaire. He faced a lot of challenges along the way, and he overcame them with pure vision and strategy. He didn’t know a line of code but ended up making the world’s largest ecommerce company. The company had many struggles early on and didn’t see any revenue for years. eBay was still the biggest competitor in China, and Alibaba was determined to dethrone them.
“I want to change history, do something important in my life, and influence individuals like we have with millions of small businesses on Alibaba. Then they love and respect you because you made their life important,” a Forbes article quotes Jack Ma as saying.
They leaned down, became humble and offered a lot of services for free to customers. Customers eventually started coming onboard and preferred the user experience and low-fees on Alibaba. Jack sustained the growth of the company for a few more years, until Yahoo was interested in working with them. They invested $1 billion back in 2005.
Jack’s own philosophy about the company was all about trust. He wanted to build as much trust as he could within the company and the customers. Alibaba was doing about 60 million transactions a day in 2015, with a record of 1.5 billion paid transactions on Single’s Day (11/11/17). Over 90% of these transactions came from mobile devices. Jack had figured out a way to build trust within the platform, so that customers would interact with vendors freely through the credit system.
No banks wanted to work with Jack, as transactions weren’t secured at that time. There was no trust built into the system. Jack then started his own company called Alipay. This was the perseverance he had. He didn’t wait for a solution to emerge, he created it himself. Not only did he launch and lead through the ecommerce revolution, he also created the online payments market that China uses today.
Indian startups have a lot to learn from that aspect of business. Jack started something that few others did, and he successfully did so with little to no help. He executed on his vision and worked tirelessly to do so. He also established a clear vision with which he could lead the company even after stepping down in 2013. He understood what it took to scale, and he did so as chairman of the board.
“Alibaba is amazing not because of our business or scale or accomplishments. The best thing about Alibaba is that we come together under a common mission and vision. Our partnership system, unique culture and talented team have laid a strong foundation for the legacy of our company. In fact, since I handed over the CEO’s responsibilities in 2013, the company has run smoothly for five years on the back of these institutional ingredients,” Jack Ma said in his sign off letter.
Jack’s favourite movie is Forest Gump, because of the simple motto of never giving up. He’s orchestrated his retirement for over 10 years now, and he knows that he’s going to do innovative things after he’s done.
“That’s why I should retire early, when I’m young. The world is so wonderful, why should [I] be the CEO of Alibaba all the time? I’m coming to this world not to work. I want to come to this world to enjoy my life. I don’t want to die in my office. I want to die on the beaches,” Jack Ma said during the World Economic Forum in Davos this year.