Entrepreneurs must persevere: Jack Ma

Founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group Jack Ma gestures during the Conversation on Entrepreneurship and Inclusive Globalization at the Foreign Ministry in Bangkok, Thailand, October 11, 2016.
PHOTO: Reuters

"Today is difficult. Tomorrow is more |difficult. The day after tomorrow is very beautiful," Jack Ma, the founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.com, said yesterday, when asked to give advice to young entrepreneurs.

"But most people die tomorrow evening."

China's second richest man was speaking during "A Conversation with Jack Ma on Entrepreneurship and Inclusive Globalisation" held by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in which he suggested entrepreneurs need to persevere to succeed.

Other advice included being optimistic, and finding good partners, because "nothing can be achieved by yourself", and trying to think independently.

"If everyone says yes, spend one minute thinking why it's yes, because it probably can be no. "When people say right, spend one minute thinking why it's right, because it might be wrong."

Ma said he likes small business people because he sees not "money" but "hope and passion" in their eyes. "Entrepreneurs must think, 'I don't have money but I still want to make something happen'.

"If you ask for money, there is no money from others for you.

That's natural. If you ask for help, nobody helps. If everyone helps you, that's unnatural.

"A lot of things you want to do, people don't like it. You have to believe in it."

Young entrepreneurs need to learn the way to convince people to support them.

"How to convince people to buy your products despite [the fact] you are small?

"Don't convince successful people. It's difficult for successful people to change. Convince people who want to succeed.

"Do not expect you gotta have hundreds of customers tomorrow … start with two to three. And make your customers become your sales and your marketing guys.

"Opportunity hides in complaints - if you can solve complaints. The bigger complaints you solve, the bigger opportunity you get," he said.

Ma - who met Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Monday and Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak yesterday to talk about small business support - said that in the future, Thai farmers could be able to sell their products to China and other markets around the world via mobile phones, provided there are proper logistics, e-payment systems and other support measures from the government.

"In the future, business will not be B2C (business-to-consumer). It will become C2B," he said.

Meanwhile, Alibaba's recent acquisition of Lazada, the leading e-commerce player in Southeast Asia, was nothing to fear for local businesses, he said.

Alibaba was built as an "ecosystem" or platform to support and empower small businesses, and it has never bought or sold things to compete against these customers.

"We don't think we come here to grab your business," he said.

Ma said he was sincere about offering to help the Thai government, which has been on the right path to develop small businesses and entrepreneurs and to usher the country into the "4.0 digital Thailand" era.

"We don't want money. We're ready to help. Honestly, Thailand is just the size of one province in China," he said.

The event was a highlight of the Second Asia Cooperation Dialogue Summit that convened Monday with officials from states.