The Motivational Success Story of Alibaba

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Everybody should know Jack Ma and Alibaba, Chinas e-Commerce response to the American Amazon. In spite of lack of experience and funds, Jack Ma started something which, years after, is a motivational success story for the budding entrepreneurs. One of the greatest entrepreneurs of all time, Jack Ma envisioned Alibaba when only a few even had email accounts.

Chinainfo-icon may be a leading tech country today, but years ago things weren’t the same. With a futuristic mindset, Jack founded Alibaba back then, in 1999. Duncan Clark is one among those people who witnessed Jack Ma success story. He’s an investment banker with over 20 years of experience in China and is the writer of this Jack Ma book – Alibaba.

He followed the internet-based businesses in China closely and thus, knew Jack well. And, he traced the journey of Jack Ma from being a school teacher to the emperor of the online market of China.

Listen to the summary at Blinkist or listen to the book at Audible.

China’s changing consumer habits

Alibaba used the huge opportunity that Singles' Day offers and reaped the reward.
Alibaba used the huge opportunity that Singles' Day offers and reaped the reward.

Image Courtesy of Business Insider

In the shadow of the communist government, the people in China haven’t been very consumer-minded. Even today, the household expenditure accounts for only one-third of the economy. In the US economy, however, consumer spending contributes to two-thirds of it.

But things changed over the years. In 2009, only 27 shops offered Singles’ Day sales while in 2015, 40,000 retailers joined the ‘movement’. Those who don’t know, Singles’ Day is like a parody of the Valentine’s Day celebration. Celebrated on November 11, it’s a national holiday there.

Read more: Everything Behind the Steve Jobs Success Story

And on that day in 2015, the first 10 minutes saw $1 billion worth of selling on Alibaba. The country is embracing consumerism, and the motivational success story of Alibaba is an epitome. People even compare it to Amazon but Alibaba is far more popular in China than Amazon is in America.

Customer-first business philosophy

The values of Alibaba put the customer in the first position.
The values of Alibaba put the customer in the first position.

Image Courtesy of Dan Croitor

Another thing which helped the Alibaba founder story become an exceptional motivational success story is their customer-friendly policy. Jack tries to make sure that every customer has an experience like no other. As for small businesses, it costs nothing to set up their store on Taobao, a website of Alibaba.

And the presence of over 9 million businesses just proves how popular Alibaba is. The merchants, however, can pay to get themselves featured. The system is the same as Google AdWords ads – pay on the basis of the number of clicks on the ads.

Read more: The Airbnb Success Story

Alibaba also offers unmatched customer service. A team of xiaoer (literally meaning ‘servants’) is there to solve any conflict between customers and vendors.

But Alibaba isn’t only about the customers; it takes care of the employees too. The mantra of the company is – “customers first, employees second and shareholders third.” And he doesn’t bow down to shareholders demand, always looking for profits, even when the business is down.

Jack is also committed to the welfare of Alibaba’s employees. Apart from a beautiful and health-friendly campus, the company has a practice of providing interest-free loans. Also, he keeps them motivated. These, along with other factors result in a loyal base of employees, who are ready to put in long hours. And some employees are with Alibaba for years.

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves

Jack Ma started as a poor English teacher and ended up as one of the richest businessmen in China. That makes his motivational success story even greater!
Jack Ma started as a poor English teacher and ended up as one of the richest businessmen in China. That makes his motivational success story even greater!

Image Courtesy of CGTN

Jack, however, wasn’t an entrepreneur right from the start. His career began as an English teacher.

Upon looking at an old coworker, he realized he doesn’t want a future like that. The motivational success story of Jack Ma started shaping from then. He established an Internet business – Hangzhou Haibo Network Consulting – back in 1995. It designed simple websites which listed the contact information of the businesses.

But the access to the Internet was minimal and convincing businesses for an online presence was a difficult task. Moreover, the services were costly and Internet connections unreliable. So, he went to the US for inspiration.

By 1999, he had the plan for his new idea and a team. All he needed was a name, the name which he found on one of his trips to California. Everyone he asked, knew about the story of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. So, Alibaba it is; his online retail store.

He paid $4000 to a Canadian man for the domain name – – and launched the service in February 1999. A service designed for small businesses.

Opportunity in adversity

Jack also needed investors for Alibaba to grow.
Jack also needed investors for Alibaba to grow.

The Internet grew, and so did the business. Jack needed investors, and they were on a lookout for Asian Internet businesses. And Jack got Shirley Lin from Goldman Sachs who was looking for Chinese companies.

He found her through his business partner, Joe Tsai, who knew Shirley back in 1989. And the wheels aligned. Although Goldman was a little hesitant, they agreed to give Alibaba $5 million. But this new business was like a house of cards. In 2000, in the dot-com bubble, everything shattered.

Many Internet companies lost substantial money, and many lost their business. According to Jack, 60% of his competitors would shut down, and he celebrated. Moreover, Jack tried expanding his business in the US. But even by the end of 2000, Alibaba wasn’t profitable.

Read more: How Google Works?

So, they cut costs and narrowed themselves only to the Chinese market. And they got the taste of success soon.

In 2003, eBay tried to take over the online retail market in China. eBay bought the company which controlled about 90% of the business. But they didn’t consider the Chinese people and were not appealing to their customers. Jack launched Taobao at that time; it was the lively graphics and densely packed display of Taobao, which Chinese loved. Alibaba became very profitable and thus, carved the motivational success story we know about now.

So, if you desire something:

  • Have a clear vision.
  • Put in the necessary hard work.
  • And remember… do not settle.

Jack Ma built his empire from scratch. If you too have the desire and spirit to achieve something, nothing is stopping you. Imagine and march ahead!

Abhijeet Kumar a freelance content writer for
We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.