From starting his business with $2,000 in borrowed capital, Chinese tycoon Jack Ma has transformed his Alibaba Group into a one-stop sourcing platform bringing products in over 40 different major categories such as consumer electronics, machinery and apparel.
His flagship firm had since hit milestone after milestone, including debuting on the New York Stock Exchange in 2014 as the biggest initial public offering in the world, ever.
Alibaba is now a world leader in wholesale trade serving millions of buyers and suppliers around the world. Its mission is to make business easy to do anywhere by giving the suppliers necessary tools to reach a global audience for their products and helping buyers find products and suppliers in the fastest way possible.
Last week, a group of Filipino businessmen led by Asean Business Advisory Council (Abac) chair Joey Concepcion had the good fortune of meeting Ma and exchanging ideas with him just before his widely publicized speech at De La Salle University in Manila, where he also received an honorary doctorate in “technopreneurship.”
Like the journeys of many other entrepreneurs, Ma’s was a mix of both successes and challenges. He has always been open about his humble beginnings, including how he got rejected in job applications for fast-food chains and for admission in Harvard University.
“Prior to having him in the program, we had a private talk during which I shared with him our three M’s of entrepreneurship to which I can say he agreed well on its importance and the assistance it can provide to our micro, small and medium enterprises,” Concepcion said.
“He believes in this framework of ‘market, money and mentorship’ because it is what they are doing,” he added.
“In fact, they will soon launch a mentorship program and has the possibility of partnering with us. For money, they have provided a solution through Alipay, an online payment solution. And of course, their strength which is e-commerce.”
Concepcion shared Ma’s insights into how brick-and-mortar businesses can survive: that the business-to-business model has to shift to the who, at consumer-to-business format, since the internet will allow consumers to dictate what products they want and how to get them faster.
“Please change quickly,” said Ma who, with a net worth of $38.6 billon, is Asia’s richest man. “It’s not the competitor who is killing you. It’s the future. Don’t be scared of technology. When you refuse to use technology, it’s like you’re refusing to use electricity.”
Alibaba is not just an e-commerce company, but an e-commerce enabler since this segment makes up only 20 percent of the firm’s business, Ma also pointed out.
During his La Salle speech, Ma pointed out that it was not technology, per se, that changed the world but the dream behind technology that changed the world.
“I admire Jack Ma’s philosophy that the power of technology lies not on the technology itself,” Concepcion said. “It’s true. Technology changed because of the imagination, talent and vision of people in achieving technological advancement.”
As the world enters what Ma called the “third technology revolution,” he emphasized that companies should make full use of the internet to win in the coming years.
He predicted that, in the future, manufactured goods would no longer be labeled “made in the USA” or “made in China,” but instead would only be “made in the internet.”
“In a way, I see myself in Jack Ma, such that all my life, my passion is to solve poverty,” Concepcion said. “We both think that as entrepreneurs, we have a duty to enable people to get an access to money and market. And of course, mentorship through the inspirational talks and direct mentorship of mentor-entrepreneurs like him.”
“With the vigor and passion that Jack Ma has for entrepreneurship, I hope that Filipino entrepreneurs will remain persistent and go further toward prosperity,” the Abac chief added.
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