Alibaba : The House That Jack Ma Built

We are all social creatures always looking for fantasy in real life to trigger our thought process and seek inspiration from them. On a daily basis, we come across a lot of strangers but we seek inspiration from only a few of them, and what sets them apart is the stories that they have to tell. Even as a child, we grow up listening to stories of how a hero comes to the rescue of his people and his family, we find solace in such stories. Studies have also found that such inspirational stories have a positive effect on our brains and help us become more emphatic, generous and improve our overall outlook on life. So, today we’ll talk about a story. The story of the life of a man who has impacted the entire economy and internet industry of China almost single-handedly. His life is nothing less than the story of Robert, The Bruce and the Spider, that we were taught as kindergartens. This is the story of Jack Ma.

Frustrated with his lack solid employment opportunities after graduation in the early 1990s, Ma relied on his English to teach at the local university he had attended a few years prior and to start a translation service business. Upon his first visit to the United States in 1995 as a translator, Ma became aware of the internet. After doing a search for beer from various countries, he was shocked to learn that there were no representatives from China online. Ma immediately saw the potential business opportunities of the internet and how it could facilitate the way small and medium Chinese enterprises could do business with the rest of the world. Jack Ma is the founder of the E-commerce giant Alibaba and is a stakeholder at Alipay, it’s sister company which is an e-payment portal. He is now officially the richest man in China with an estimated net worth of $25 Billion, on the back of the recent world record $150 Billion IPO filing of his company. Given all of this, Jack Ma only holds a 7.8% stake in Alibaba and a 50% stake in Alipay. Alibaba and Jack Ma, although are not household names out of China, you must know that Alibaba is worth more than Facebook, and processes goods more than eBay and Amazon combined!

This might be beginning to seem like the story of an arrogant and rich billionaire who hasn’t seen the dark. But don’t be mistaken by the numbers that you see above, they can fool anyone. Although as simple as it may sound, Jack Ma has had it hard in his life to get to where he is today. A true rags-to-riches story and definitely a one which will inspire you even in your darkest days. After graduating in 1988, he worked as an English teacher at a local university in his hometown of Hangzhou, China. He only made $12 (£8.80) a month, according to the documentary about his life called Crocodile in the Yangtze. When speaking at a luncheon with the Economics Club of New York, Mr. Ma referred to this period as the “best life I had.”

When you don’t have much money, you know how to spend it, he explained. But once you become a billionaire, you have a lot of responsibility. “If you have less than $1m (£737,000), you know how to spend the money,” he said during Tuesday’s speech. “[At] $1bn (£737m), that’s not your money…The money I have today is a responsibility. It’s the trust of people on me.” Mr. Ma says he feels a need to spend his money “on behalf of the society.” “I spend it our way,” he said. “It’s a trust.”

This isn’t the first time Mr. Ma has spoken about the burden of being a billionaire. When speaking at a panel at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, he referred to his days as an English teacher as “fantastic,” according to CNN Money. He said anyone with $1m (£737,000)  is “lucky,” but when you reach $10m (£7.4m), “you’ve got troubles.”  After Alibaba’s IPO, he told CNBC that the pressure that comes with the responsibility gets to him, especially now that the world is focusing on Alibaba’s stock price. “IPO is great because … I’m happy with the results,” he said to CNBC. “But honestly, I think when people think too highly of you, you have the responsibility to calm down and be yourself.”

Alibaba employees threw a big party at the company’s Hangzhou headquarters to celebrate. One employee even took the party as the perfect opportunity to propose. Ma told employees at a press conference that he hopes they use their newfound wealth to become “a batch of genuinely noble people, a batch of people who are able to help others, and who are kind and happy.” The IPO may have made Ma an extremely wealthy man, but he hasn’t made any flashy purchases (yet), and he still has some pretty modest hobbies. “I don’t think he has changed much, he is still that old style,” Xiao-Ping Chen, a friend of Ma, told USA Today. He likes reading and writing kung fu fiction, playing poker, meditating, and practicing tai chi. He has even teamed up with Jet Li to spread awareness of tai chi, and he brings a trainer along with him when he travels. He does have a few splurges, however. In March 2013, Alibaba spent a reported $49.7 million for a Gulfstream G550, mostly for Ma’s use.

Company lore has it that Ma came up with the name “Alibaba” while sitting in a San Francisco coffee shop. In “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” a secret password unlocks a trove filled with unbelievable riches. Ma’s company has, in a way, revealed the potential of small and mid-sized businesses across the globe. Ma is a true rags-to-riches story. He grew up poor in communist China, failed his university-entrance exam twice, and was rejected from dozens of jobs, including one at KFC, before finding success with his third internet company, Alibaba.

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