By Prudence Minayo
Most people have heard of Alibaba at some point as it is one of the profitable companies in the world. Among the people that founded the company is Jack Ma who is a successful Chinese businessman as well as an actor.
The Alibaba co-founder did not have it easy in his early years. Joining university was a problem as he repeatedly failed the entrance exams and also gaining employment was not a walk in the park. Before becoming a success story, he was rejected by so many employers, a memorable one being by KFC. Out of all the people who sought employment by KFC that day, he was the only one not chosen. He also tried to join the police but was also rejected.
Through all these rejections, he managed to rise to become one of the richest people in the world. In 2019, Forbes ranked him number 21 in the list of “World’s Most Powerful People.”
According to Forbes, he has a net worth of $58.3 billion as of January 2021 and is the second richest person in China.
Jack Ma is also a philanthropist and was named 2019 Asia’s Heroes of Philanthropy due to his contribution to a number of causes.
The question on so many publications recently is Where did Jack Ma disappear to? For more than 2 months, he has not made any public appearances. He had previously criticized the Chinese financial regulations saying that they suppress innovation. Shortly after this, Beijing suspended the $37 billion IPO of Ma’s fintech empire Ant Group planned for November. However, another source indicated he is just lying low.
Jack Ma was born Ma Yun on 10th September 1964 in Hangzhou, which is located in the Southern part of China.
Education and Early Life
A young Ma learnt English by conversing with tourists. He did this as he gave them tours of the area and even became friends with them. It was one of these tourists that gave him the name Jack since the tourist found Ma’s name hard to pronounce.
Pursuing higher studies was not such an easy thing for him as he was not able to pass the entrance exams twice. He finally managed to join Hangzhou Teachers Institute after the third attempt. While at school, he portrayed great leadership skills and was the head of the student council.
In 1988, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English. He then became a lecturer in English and International Trade at Hangzhou Dianzi University.
Jack was born in a poor family to parents who were musicians. He met his wife Zhang Ying while he was a student at Hangzhou University. They got married in 1988 after graduation and together they have three children: Ma Yuankun, Ma Yuanbao and one other.
According to him, he applied for so many jobs but was rejected. At one point, he even tried to get work at KFC but they also rejected him. After all these rejections, the only option was to start his own business.
He moved to the United States of America and got to learn more about the internet. Therefore, he browsed a number of pages and what surprised him is that there were no pages explaining basic information about China. Ma, alongside his friend, started by creating a Chinese website. A few hours upon registering and opening the website, he received a lot of messages from a number of Chinese businessmen.
In May 1995, they registered the domain Chinapages.com. This was how he started building websites for Chinese companies.
In 1998, he was the head of an Information Technology (IT) company that was established by the China International Electronic Commerce Center – a department that is under the Ministry of Foreign Trade.
The following year (1999), he left the company and went back to Hangzhou, China. Together with his friends, they established Alibaba in his apartment.
In October 1999 and January 2000, Alibaba won $25 million foreign venture capital investment. This program was targeted at improving the domestic e-commerce market and perfecting an e-commerce platform for Chinese enterprises, especially for small and medium sized enterprises. It was also aimed at dealing with World Trade Organization (WTO) problems.
Ma then founded Taobao marketplace, Alipay, Ali Mama and Lynx. Taobao was such a success that eBay offered to purchase the company, an offer that was rejected. Ma then got help from Jerry Yang, the co-founder of Yahoo who made a $1 billion investment.
In September 2014, it was reported that Alibaba was raising more than $25 billion at the New York stock exchange in an Initial Public Offering (IPO).
Alibaba became one of the most expensive and important technology companies in the world. This was because the $25 billion was the largest initial public offering in the US financial history.
For years Ma served as the executive chairman of Alibaba group. The group had a total of 9 subsidiaries: Alibaba.com, Taobao Marketspace, Alipay, Alibaba cloud computing, Aliexpress.com, Tmall, eTao, 1688.com and Juhuasuan.
In January 2017, the businessman held a meeting with the president of the United States of America, Donald Trump. The meeting’s agenda was on how to create about 1 million employment opportunities in the next five years through Alibaba’s interest in the country.
During Alibaba’s 18th birthday on 8th September 2017, he appeared on stage and gave a performance influenced by Michael Jackson.
On 10th September 2018, he announced the decision to step down as executive chairman of Alibaba the next year. There were a lot of speculations about this move. Rumors were rife that he was forced to step down by the Chinese government. However, he refuted these claims saying that it was his decision and he wanted to focus more on philanthropy through his foundation.
The successful businessman was then succeeded as executive chairman of Alibaba by Daniel Zhang. He officially stepped down on 30th September 2019.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Chinese Communist Party leader, Xi Jinping personally scuttled Ma’s Ant Group IPO. They reported this in November 2020.
Career in the arts
Jack Ma is not only an accomplished businessman but he also seems to love entertainment.
In 2017, he made his debut into the film industry when he acted in Gong Shou Dao– a short kung fu film. It was in the same year that he took part in a singing festival and performed dances in Alibaba’s 18th birthday celebration.
Jack was also a judge in the TV show, Africa’s Business Heroes. During the finale, he was replaced by Peng Lei due to what was said to be schedule difficulties.
The former Alibaba executive chairman started the Jack Ma Foundation. This is an organization aimed at helping in education, public health and the environment.
In 2008, Alibaba donated $808,000 to victims of the Sichuan earthquake.
In 2009, Jack became the trustee of the Nature Conservancy’s china program.
In 2010, he joined the global board of directors for the Nature Conservancy Program.
In 2015, Alibaba funded the building of 1,000 houses after the Nepal earthquake and then raised funding for another 9,000 houses. The same year, they started a non-profit organization named Alibaba Hong Kong Young Entrepreneurs Foundation, whose purpose is to support and assist entrepreneurs from Hong Kong to grow their businesses.
The Jack Ma foundation was launched in September 2018.
In 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic raged, the Jack Ma foundation together with Alibaba launched a number of programs in Asia, Africa and Europe in order to donate medical supplies.
Awards and Honors
Jack Ma is a recipient of many awards and honors including:
- Top ten personalities of the year (2004) by China Central Television (CCTV).
- Young Global Leader by World Economic Forum (2005)
- Named among 25 Most Powerful Businesspersons in Asia by Fortune (2005).
- Businessperson of the year by Businessweek (2007)
- 30 World Best CEOs by Baron (2008).
- 100 Most Powerful People by Time Magazine (2009).
- An Honorary Doctorate Degree by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (2013).
- 30 Most Powerful People in the World by Forbes (2014).
- Entrepreneur of the Year by Asian Award in 2015.
- Honorary Degree in Doctorate of Science in Technopreneurship by De Lo Salle University, Manila, Philippines in 2017
- Honorary Degree of Doctor of Social Sciences by the University of Hong Kong in 2018
- Honorary doctorate from professors Yakov and Yaron at the Tel Aviv University in 2018.
- Awarded a first class medal by King Abdullah II for his contributions in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.
Jack Ma biography is inspiring to young entrepreneurs keen on venturing in business.