Dreams change the world, not technology: Jack Ma
By Goh Thean Eu March 18, 2015
- Alibaba founder sees businesses moving away from B2C towards C2B
- Former schoolteacher now the second richest man in China
IT is not the technology that changes the world, but the dreams behind the technology, according to Alibaba Group Holding Ltd founder Jack Ma (pic).
In his keynote address at the opening of the CeBIT 2015 technology trade fair in Hannover, Germany, Ma said he would not have been as successful as he is today if technology was the defining factor.
“I am not trained in technology. I know nothing much about computers and I know a little about the Internet,” said Ma, the former schoolteacher whom according to Forbes is currently the second richest man in China, with a net worth of over US$22 billion.
“But I have a strong dream of wanting to help small businesses. It is dreams that drive the world, not just the technology,” he added.
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Meanwhile, Ma said that in the near- to medium-term, he sees data playing an increasing role in businesses and economies.
“In the future, the world will be connected not by oil or things, but by data. Businesses will be C2B (consumer-to-business) and not B2C – because of the enormous amount of data, manufacturers must make customised things, or they will face difficulties,” he said.
He also said that machines will not only need to be able to make a product, but must be able to talk to one another and to think – and such machines will be supported by data.
“Business will not be focusing on size or standardisation, but will focus on flexibility, customisation … and user-friendliness.”
Ma also expects to see women playing a greater role in business and in the economy in the future, with more also taking on leadership roles.
“I strongly believe we are going to see a lot of women leaders, because in the future, people will not only focus on muscle and power, but on wisdom and responsibility.”
Dreams, fuelled by perspiration
Ma is marked strongly by his determination and perseverance. Before he became an entrepreneur, he had failed his college entrance exam twice, and was rejected from a number of jobs, including a managerial position at a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet right after he finally graduated.
Sometime during the 1990s, he took advantage of China’s export boom by starting a translation company. Not long later, he visited the United States for the first time, where he was able to get a real taste of the Internet – prior to the trip, he had merely heard about the Internet.
According to a New York Times report, Ma returned home to set up one of the China’s first web companies: China Pages, an online directory for domestic businesses looking for customers overseas.
However, it wasn’t too long before he lost control of China Pages as the company was pressured into forming a joint venture with Hangzhou Telecom, a deal which put the Chinese Government firmly in charge of the company.
After the China Pages ‘incident,’ Ma went to Beijing to work at Infoshare, an Internet advertising agency set up under China’s Ministry of Commerce. He left the agency after about 14 months.
In 1999, Ma decided to give entrepreneurship another shot, starting Alibaba with 17 friends. Ma told the New York Times that the name Alibaba was chosen because “everyone knows the story of Ali Baba. He is a young man who is willing to help others.”
Goh Thean Eu reports from Hannover, Germany, at the invitation of CeBIT organiser Deutsche Messe AG. All editorials are independent.
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