Forget America, China’s Alibaba handled $170 billion in sales in 2012, beating both Amazon and eBay combined.
Founded by a former English teacher, Jack Ma, Alibaba has grown to become the world’s biggest e-commerce site and the first to handle $1 trillion in cash from sales in a year. With an IPO expected later this year, Ma is set to jump a few queues on the world’s richest list.
However, everything wasn’t as rosy as it looks. Ma 43, has always been a self starter. He taught himself English as he grew during China’s Cultural Revolution. He practiced his English for eight years as he cycled from home to work as a guide to the tourists coming to Hangzhou, a city that is some 100 miles southwest of Shanghai. He was becoming more globalized than his friends.
An invitation to Australia by one of the tourist families changed his life forever, ma realized that China was broke. He went back home, flunked his university entry exams twice before he got admission to Hangzhou Teachers University, the worst at the time. The student teacher was then elected student chairman and then later as chairman of the city’s Students Federation. Upon graduation he was retained to teach at the university but he always wanted to get into the business world. His efforts to to be hired as a secretary to the general manager of a Kentucky Fried Chicken failed.
Then in 1995 he went to Seattle as an interpreter for a trade delegation and there he was introduced to the internet for the first time, he was gutted that there was no data online about China, so they came back home and decided to launch a Yellopages for China called China Pages with a $2,000 loan. He knew nothing about a computer, had never touched a keyboard. After about a year, China Telecom their competitor invested $185,000 into their company.
He became known as the crocodile of the Yangzi after saying that, “EBay may be a shark in the ocean, but I am a crocodile in the Yangzi river. If we fight in the ocean, we lose; but if we fight in the river, we win.”
For those who want to dig deep into what happened inside Alibaba after its launch in 1999, the film, Crocodile in the Yangtze isa must watch. It captures the emotional ups and downs of life in a Chinese Internet startup company at a time when the Internet brought China face-to-face with the West.
Proudly promoted by Konga at just N500, the award-winning film follows Ma, as he grows Alibaba.com from an apartment with friends into China’s first global Internet company, even beating eBay and Amazon combined in sales. The Crocodile in the Yangtze has been screened in 11 locations around the world, and is directed by Porter Erisman an ex-VP Alibaba.com. Erisman worked for Alibaba for eight years.
The documentary, made available for the first time in Africa, a home to many internet Startups is set to be screened to the Nigerian tech community on Tuesday Jan 14th at Ozone Cinemas in a move Konga says is rewarding for the Nigerian Technology and Business Ecosystems. Sim Shagaya, CEO of Konga.com will introduce the film followed by a Q&A session with Porter Erisman, Producer & Director of the documentary. Other surprise guests will also speak.
Tickets are already available and might be out soon as they going for just N500 on Konga.com. The ticket proceeds donated to the Yaba Police Station for Internet access provision. There will also be 5 free tickets given out to students from the departments of Computer Science, Engineering Department in the University of Lagos, and the Co-Creation Hub, Lagos (CChub).