You too can be a billionaire

By: Prof. Enrique Soriano

ALIBABA founder and chairman Jack Ma says he never thought he’d someday stand in front of the world’s finest minds to talk about his dream. He did just that in Manila last Nov18, 2015, where leaders of 21 countries and executives of Fortune 500 companies gathered for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit.

To round off his luck that day, in a last minute change of plans, he was even interviewed by no less than U.S. President Barack Obama. Part of their discussion had Ma telling Obama how he thinks government and businesses could work together to help young entrepreneurs.

“Government is simple — just reduce the tax, or no tax, for these guys,” Ma said to rousing laughter at the summit, as reported by Reuters.  “You got a lot of cheers from your fellow CEOs,” Obama said in response.

Ma also shared how Alibaba has been investing 0.3 percent of the company’s total revenue into climate change solutions derived from young minds and other environmental issues over the past six years.

Ma further said at the summit that he is an optimist, “You should always have hope. Try to make sure that it’s not only in the movies you see ‘Mission Impossible’. In real life you have to make mission possible.”

Drawing from his own experience in building a business empire from scratch, Jack Ma is the kind of exceptional and talented leader who redefined the path of success. Defying the odds, Jack Ma spearheaded e-commerce in China.

As the executive chairman and founder of Alibaba Group, China’s leading Internet business entity, he is among the topmost Chinese entrepreneurs who made it to the coveted Forbes list in recent years.

Jack Ma deviated from conventional methods to give his country the benefits of Internet based commerce. He lacked any technology and computing background and that makes his success even more astounding than the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates. When he started his career as an English teacher, few could have predicted him to become an internet mogul.

Fresh off the biggest IPO in history, Alibaba founder and chairman Jack Ma is now the richest person in China, worth an estimated $38.6 B, which includes his 6.2% stake in Alibaba and a nearly 50% stake in payment processing service Alipay.

Ma is a true rags-to-riches story. He grew up poor in communist China, failed his college entrance exam twice, and was rejected from dozens of jobs, including one at KFC, before finding success with his third internet company, Alibaba.

He was born and raised in Hangzhou, in China’s Zhejiang Province, born Sept. 10, 1964. His zeal to enhance his aptitude and acquire new skills was evident from childhood. As a teenager, he started communicating with foreign tourists to enhance his English skills. He entered the Hangzhou Normal University and completed graduation in English. Later in his life he attended Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in Beijing.

How many people go off to college and university then find themselves not even needing the qualification they studied for by their mid 20’s? Jack recalled how he and 17 others who started Alibaba in his apartment years ago knew nothing about the internet.

“Until today, the only thing I know about the computer is how to receive and send emails, browse, and watch videos,” he said.

What he is most interested in is how nations will use the web to help small businesses grow across the world. He said in China, Alibaba has helped 12 million merchants sell to customers online. On Singles Day on November 11, which is China’s – and the world’s – biggest online shopping day, Alibaba saw record-breaking sales worth over US$14 billion, which he didn’t imagine when they were starting the e-commerce company in 1999.

To be continued…


Prof. Enrique Soriano is a World Bank/IFC Governance Consultant and an International Family Business Coach, National Agora Awardee for Marketing Excellence, Book Author of two best-selling Business books and Executive Director of ASEAN-based Consulting group, W+B Strategic Advisory. He is also a Professor of Real Estate, former Chair of the Marketing Cluster at the ATENEO Graduate School of Business and a senior fellow at the IPMI Indonesia International Business School. He is an active member of the Singapore Institute of Directors (SID). You can read Prof Soriano’s business articles for free at


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