Malaysians would do well to adopt some of the business leader’s early practices
JACK Ma’s life is very much a testament to the idea that nothing is impossible. At least that’s what he still believes in. A former English teacher and now one of China’s richest men (with a fortune worth around US$30 billion), the executive chairman of Alibaba Group has built his company into a major force in China’s e-commerce.
With a market capitalisation of US$264 billion and which counts some 450 million customers a year, the company is now taking the world by storm by going beyond China.
Emerging as a global icon for Chinese business, he travels widely around the world, meeting government leaders and business people and sharing his business philosophies and his rags-to-riches story with varied audiences.
He dropped by in Kuala Lumpur last week, sharing the same stage with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, concluding a deal to develop an e-commerce hub near Kuala Lumpur International Airport and delivering a lecture at a global transformation forum.
The digital economy adviser to the Malaysian government spoke of how he was impressed by the speed in which Malaysia’s Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ) was set up.
“Malaysia is very businessfriendly and much more efficient than I thought,” he said.
Ma said it took only 10 minutes for him and Najib to agree on introducing the DFTZ when they met in China last November.
“My team and I thought — is four months possible? We have been discussing it with many European and Asean countries,” he said.
A firm believer in globalisation, the 52-year-old Ma said with China’s Silk Road — which he referred to as the “first globalisation” — the export of China’s tea leaves was possible as they were placed in containers made of tin sourced from Malaysia.
“Without Malaysia, the Silk Road would not have been as successful as Malaysia’s tin protected the quality of Chinese tea in the 18th century.”
The high-profile Alibaba chairman sees his stature as a global business leader as an obligation.
“Running such a big economy, you have the responsibility to share with people what you think,” he once told one interviewer. “Our ideas, our policies, our decisions are going to affect the lives of half a billion people.”
We Malaysians can learn many things from Ma and his business ways. But we may also find it strange that his company, an Internet-driven conglomerate, bought into Hong Kong’s Englishlanguage
newspaper in 2015.
Ma has explained his milliondollar investment in SCMP as ensuring that non-Chinese speakers have access to high-quality information about China.
What are the main things we can learn from Ma? To me, one of the things is that a good command of English is important.
Ma has shared in his numerous TV interviews or public talks on how he went out of his way while growing up in Hangzhou, China, to pick up English by listening to the radio or talking to foreign tourists.
“Since there was no way to learn English at the time — there were no teachers in our city who could teach English — so I listened to the BBC and Voice of America, and there every evening, 8 o’ clock to 9 o’ clock, I opened my radio and every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I listened to VOA and the first book I heard about was
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak with Alibaba founder and executive chairman Jack Ma after the launch of the Digital Free Trade Zone in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday. Ma said it took only 10 minutes for him and Najib to agree on introducing the DFTZ when they met in China last November.