Malaysians would do well to adopt some of the busi­ness leader’s early prac­tices

New Straits Times - - News -

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

he said.

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.

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