A legendary story about Ma Yun
(China Daily)
Updated: 2006-03-14 08:34

Ma Yun, pioneer of China's e-commerce

Ma Yun is chief executive officer (CEO) of the Hangzhou-based Alibaba Networking Technology Co in east China's Zhejiang Province.

A former teacher of English in Zhejiang, Ma started the country's first e-commerce website - - in 1998.

In just six years, it has become the leader in its field, serving well over 50,000 member traders in 200 countries and regions, with an annual business turnover amounting to about US$10 billion.

Heaven stands by iron-willed men

Ma's story seems legendary.

"The first few years were pretty good for us," he recalled.

"In 2001 and 2002, however, the so-called 'Internet bubble' exploded and because of that, staying alive became our top concern."

Despite the adversity, Ma did not give up his ambition of turning the company into the greatest of its kind in the world.

"I believe in the Chinese proverb 'Heaven stands by iron-willed men,'" he told the audience.

"Heaven," so to speak, did come to his rescue between late April and early July of 2003 when the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak hit China.

"For a time, travel, visits and conferences had to be cancelled.

"Suddenly, business people realized that transactions could be negotiated and concluded via the Internet and that business people did not have to meet face-to-face. Alibaba boomed overnight," Ma said.

In 2003, Alibaba generated an average of 1 million yuan (US$121,000) per day in turnover.

Since the beginning of 2004, it has yielded a daily average of 1 million yuan in net profit.

For 2005, "the company aims at paying 1 million yuan in taxes per day, leaving a net profit of at least 2 million yuan (US$241,800)."

Asked about the secret of his success, Ma cited the famous tale about the race between the tortoise and the hare, where the former won.

To be successful in this world, he said, "you must combine the merits of both: the speed of the hare and the endurance and willpower of the tortoise."

In 2004, Alibaba invested US$84 million in business expansion, mainly in overseas operations.

Alibaba is not the only Chinese business that has begun to develop itself overseas, or "go global."

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