After Being Told By KFC That He Was No Good, He Went On To Become the Richest Man in China

You might have heard several rags to riches stories but while western countries provide a certain amount of scope for many to do well, it isn’t the same with countries in Asia. This is the true rags to riches story of one man who fought against several odds, poverty being one to become the richest man in China. While that might sound as no big deal, the man isn’t just someone who has become a billionaire; he is a charming personality and a good human being too.

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1The man who rose from rags to riches

If you have heard of the wholesale e-commerce portal Alibaba.com, then this is the story of its founder Jack Ma who is worth $25 billion and the richest man in China. Incidentally, the IPO of Alibaba.com turned out to be the biggest in history.

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Jack Ma

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2MA grew up in a poverty-stricken family

MA was born in Hangzhou China on October 15th, 1964. He grew up in a family with two siblings an older brother and a younger sister. It was a time when China was isolated from the West and just progressing as a nation. Ma’s family was poverty-stricken like countless of others during the Mao regime. There was barely enough money to eat.

MA grew up in a poverty-stricken family

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3A scrawny kid in school

MA was a scrawny kid in school as you can guess from his pictures. He was often bullied and always got into fights but he says he fought back and never felt put down. “I was never afraid of opponents who were bigger than I,” he recalls.

scrawny kid in school

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4He loved collecting crickets as a child

As a child he loved collecting crickets and could tell the differences between different species just from the sounds they made. In rural China, Cricket fighting is a common and popular sport and children are often seen wandering i8n the evening trying to spot a fighting cricket identified by its distinct sound.

He loved collecting crickets as a child

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5Failed at exams several times

Ma wasn’t successful at school failing his college exams twice. By a stroke of good luck, the visit by the then US president Richard Nixon to Hangzhou finally put the city on the map and it suddenly started receiving an influx of tourists and commercial visitors alike. Boys like Ma seized the opportunity by working as guides for foreign tourists.

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Failed at exams several times

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6Rejected at every job interview and worked as a tourist guide

Previous to his working as a local tourist guide, Ma had applied for dozens of jobs facing rejection from all. He applied in KFC but was the only one rejected out of 24 applicants. When Ma worked as a tourist guide, he hit upon a unique idea of payment. He would ask the English speaking tourists to give him English lessons as payment instead.

He would wake up early at the crack of dawn to stand near the City’s main hotel hoping to be the early bird and catch tourists starting out from the hotel.

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Rejected at every job interview

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7“You’re no good’ and finally a job at 12$ a month

Ma realized that he had no money; he had no sources or connections. The only thing he could do was learn English and complete his college education. Although he failed the entrance exam twice, he was successful the third time and graduated from Hangzhou Teachers Institute in 1988. After that he started applying for more jobs.

After several more rejections, Ma finally accepted a teaching post in the local university but with a paltry salary of $12 a month. Ma recalls how he was rejected by Harvard 10 times when he applied for higher studies. In every job interview, he recalls the words:”You’re no good”

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Hangzhou Teachers Institute

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8His first trip to the US

It was the time of the internet and that fascinated Ma. He soon started a translation service relaxing how important it was in China and in 19956 was sent by a company to the US to recover payment. This was his first time abroad and the US no less.

MA was then captivated with the technology especially the internet. One day when he was searching the word “beer”, he found there were no results from China. This gave him the idea of an online marketplace which he named Alibaba.com

Jack Ma in young age

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9His venture almost failed

His new ventures failed twice, he did a rethink. MA collected 17 friends and spoke to then. He convinced them on the benefits of an online e-commerce marketplace which he would name Alibaba. The site was to be different from others where customers could buy goods from exporters directly after seeing ads.

His venture almost failed

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10Finally success and celebration

Alibaba grew phenomenally with customers visiting it from all over the world. By 1999. It had raised huge funds for multinational companies. $5 million from Goldman Sachs and $20 million from Japanese Telecom Company SoftBank made it increase its popularity. Ma attributes this success to his employees whom he praised and said “We will make it because we are young and we never, never give up,” Ma said to a gathering of employees.

Jack-Ma founder of alibaba group

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11He liked motivating his employees personally

When Alibaba made its first profit, he gave each of his employees a can of silly string to enjoy with and go crazy. He motivated his employees by asking them to do handstands to keep them energetic in the 2000’s especially when it started Taobao, the competitor to eBay.

He liked motivating his employees personally

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12Recognized by yahoo

In 2005, MA was being recognized as a great business partner and it was Yahoo who first invested $1 billion for the first 40% major stake in Alibaba. That was a huge milestone for Ma and a huge profit for Yahoo who also benefitted with a subsequent profit of $10 billion after Alibaba launched the biggest IPO in history launched on September 19 2013.

MA then left the post of the CEO and stayed on as executive chairman. The $150 billion IPO was the largest ever listing on the New York Stock Exchange for any company making Ma the richest man in China. He was now worth $25 billion.

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Recognized by yahoo

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13He remained humble

There were huge celebrations in the Alibaba family because it made every employee rich. However, Ma never changed into the personality of a rich billionaire. He remained humble and maintained his old-fashioned style. Said Xiao-ping his friend “I don’t think he has changed much, he is still that old style,”
Ma often liked to keep hobbies like reading, playing poker, writing kung fu fiction stories. He also meditated and practiced Tai Chi and teamed up with popular Chinese actor Jet Li to promote the practice.

jack ma practiced Tai Chi

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14A crusader for environmental conservation

Ma is an avid crusader of natural conservation sitting on the global board of The Nature Conservancy and was a keynote speaker during a session of the Clinton Global Initiative session. He has also funded a 27,000-acre nature reserve in China.

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jack maa in clinton foundation

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15He kept his family out of the spotlight

MA keeps his family out of the social spotlight. He now lives with his wife Zhang Ying a teacher whom he married in the late 80’s. He has two children, a daughter and a son who studies at UC Berkley where Ma has also audited history classes.

He kept his family out of the spotlight

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16One of the biggest and most respected celebrities in China

Ma is one of the biggest celebrities and an inspirational figure in China. He is popular for organizing talent shows on behalf of Alibaba where he too entertains people. At one event he also dressed up as a punk rock artist and took the stage in front of 20,000 employees.

most respected celebrities in China

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17How Alibaba got its name

The story how Alibaba got its name is that while MA was in the US sipping coffee in a café in San Francisco, he hit upon the idea of “Alibaba and the forty thieves”. It was like a code that opened up to riches. Today the company has a net worth of $39.6 Billion according to Forbes. His rag to riches story is impressive as the Chinese tourist guide who became a Billionaire and the richest man in China. It is an inspiration to many worldwide.

How Alibaba got its name

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