Chinese billionaire Jack Ma and his company Ali Baba's meteoric growth has turned the attention of the whole world towards the east. Today, Ali Baba is one of the most valuable companies in the world and Ma is raking in the fortunes like never before at an awe-inspiring speed.
However, it has not always been this rosy a road for Ma. The success that he enjoys today is a result of decades of hard work and character building. Ma considers his ethics and his different approach to things as his greatest assets.
Born in Hangzhou, one of the most populous cities in China, struggles were always a part of his life. In an interview, Jack recalled how for 9 years every morning, he used to travel to a nearby hotel to meet foreign tourists and work as a guide to them. Through his interactions with the tourists, Ma got a view of the world and understood the intricacies of different cultures and developed critical thinking. This thinking helped Ma in later years to come up with innovative business ideas and made Ma the success story he is.
One of the most important ingredients of success according to Ma is perseverance and he is a living example of the same. Ma, in his earlier interviews, said that in order to compete and engage with global markets, he had to learn English. However, this was not as simple as he didn't have any teachers around to teach him the language nor was the facility present at his school.
To counter this challenge, he started listening to BBC and Voice of America over the radio. Initially, by his admittance, Ma barely understood anything, but his stint as a tourist guide and regular listening of the language helped him hone the skills well.
Ma's humble background has played a great impact on his business skills. Any decision and he makes, he analyses the impact it would have on firstly the customers, secondly his employees followed by shareholders.
According to Ma, the basic instinct of any entrepreneur must be focussed on customers. "Today, many companies say that they believe in customer first policy but rarely follow it", said Ma in an interview.
The primary focus of an entrepreneur must be to solve a problem that exists in the market. The integration of technology with a problem is the key to its solution and whoever does it in the most customer-friendly and cost-effective way is the real winner.
Here's the full interview: