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Jack Ma: To achieve big success, solve big problems



Jack Ma: “I didn’t work hard to be number one in class. I worked to be number one in helping people,”

Jack Ma’s rags to riches story has turned the 52-year-old into a global sensation.

Ma, who hails from Hangzhou, China has challenged Kenyan entrepreneurs to focus on solving big problems to be big entrepreneurs instead of complaining. “If you want to be a big company, solve big problems. If you want to be a small company, solve small problems,” Ma said while speaking at the University of Nairobi.

He noted that Africa has a huge potential and that the continent can learn from the mistakes of other developed economies.

“Where else can you find elephants roaming around except in Africa? Where else can you find fresh air that is not polluted except here? When I landed here and I was hit by fresh air, I understood why people come here for holidays,” he said.

He also challenged Africans not to complain but do something to solve the problems that afflict the continent. He also noted that Africa’s youngest population is one of its greatest assets.

“Africa has the youngest population. Opportunities always exist where people complain,” he said.

“Where the government doesn’t know what’s going on, that’s an opportunity. When people around you disagree, that’s an opportunity,” Ma added.

He admits that the seeds of success were planted during his tenure as the student council’s chairman of the Hangzhou Teacher’s Institute. It’s in this institution where he learnt the skills that set successful people apart.

“I didn’t work hard to be number one in class. I worked to be number one in helping people,” he noted.

Throughout his start-up period, and even now that Ali Baba is a global company, he still sees his role as that of a teacher, cheekily trading his Chief Executive Officer title to the Chief Education Officer of Alibaba Group. “I learnt to be a teacher. And a good teacher shares knowledge and expects the students to be better than him,” he said.

The founder and current executive chairman of Ali Baba Group said that one needs, what he calls the 3 Q’s, to be successful.

“Have a high Emotional Quotient (EQ) because you will know how to work with people and support them. Have a high Intelligence Quotient (IQ) because intellectual knowledge is what will help you to protect your business. Lastly, pursue a high Love Quotient (LQ) – respect for others, care for each other and love people,” Ma affirmed.

The world is funny

Ma whose company has clocked sales worth $550 Billion since its inception advises that one needs to be all rounded to succeed. “But the world is funny because those who normally have a high IQ usually have a low EQ and those who have a high EQ have a low IQ,” Ma quipped.

“But even if you have a high IQ, a high EQ, you have made a lot of money and you are successful, you may not be respected because you don’t have a high LQ,” he added.

The revelation that LQ is important, Ma confesses, was a challenge that his wife threw at him. “My wife challenged me to be a person that can be respected and not a person that is just rich,” Ma said.

Sharing insights

Ma’s Ali Baba e-commerce company has created around 33 million jobs in China and delivered 65 million packages. He is the richest person in Asia and the 14th richest in the world with a mammoth net worth estimated to be 35.5 billion USD.

He is on a two day trip to Kenya and Rwanda to share insights with African entrepreneurs in his capacity as a special adviser for youth entrepreneurship and small businesses to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). (Capital FM)


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Business Today is the leading independent online business website in Kenya. Started in 2012 by a veteran business journalist, it has a huge following both in Kenya and abroad. It covers various business and related issues. Email editor at: [email protected]

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