The advocate of small-time businesses can’t stop the skyrocketing growth of his empire
Nothing is a greater test of a person’s noble philosophy than what it brings out when the person becomes “successful”. An advocate of small retailing businesses that take advantage of fast-evolving technologies, the founder of the Alibaba Group – Jack Ma – has seen his wealth and bargaining power skyrocket – a phenomenon confirmed by the latest financial reports. He now oversees a global business empire, something the man himself would have frowned upon many years ago.
Jack Ma can still say he couldn’t help it. He can also remain an inspiration, although it will be against a backdrop of the rapidly growing wealth and power of his empire. He’s now one of the world’s richest persons and is called the Jeff Bezos (the patriarch of Amazon) of Asia – a status he suggested in a recent public remark that he didn’t want.
“I try to stay away from power, money and glory,” he then said. “If you keep power in your office, you will be in trouble; if you keep money in your pocket, you will be in trouble; if you put glory on your head, you will be in trouble.” His advice is that money must be spent for charity, power must be used to empower others, and glory must be shared with or given to others.
He is having all the three in abundance, thanks largely to his firm belief that online technologies are empowering people who would never have a chance otherwise. The Internet businesses of Alibaba Group have been immensely
successful but they have yet to
really promote his ideology of
“sharing”. In fact, the group’s business growth has begun to fly in
the face of his purported optimism that an era of big corporations is being slowly but surely replaced by small-time entrepreneurs, who are helped by technologies.
His business idea is revolutionary and widely circulated on social media.
He has always said that the exponential growth of Internet use for business purposes was practically democratising the economy, allowing poor people in poor countries to challenge the “big fish”. He also expressed confidence in the determination of the people who never had it before, stating that they seem to have a bigger drive than, say, heirs of great fortunes.
Jack Ma has indeed been proved right. The online world has generated opportunities that were never there before, and the success of his business group is a testament to that. His prediction that Asia would be economically stronger because of the technologies while the United States and the other rich parts of the world would see relatively slow growth also looks well on track.
This leaves another theory of his in the balance, the one predicting a new form of global economy, in which mega-rich corporates no longer pull the strings.
While the Alibaba Group has proved the benefits of the online technologies and is challenging western businesses, it is trapped on the path that an idealistic Jack Ma didn’t like. It’s on its way towards becoming an omnipresent conglomerate, if it is not so already.
Bill Gates has become one of the world’s most generous philanthropists, apparently sick and tired of being the richest person on the planet.
Jack Ma can follow in Gates’s footsteps, or the Chinese business mogul can devote himself to fulfilling his philosophy that places trust in everyone’s potential. It’s a new threshold worth passing, for his own good as much as for everybody else’s.