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While the ASEAN Business and Advisory Council is preparing for the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit 2017, I had the wonderful opportunity of engaging with Chinese business magnate and Alibaba Group founder and executive chairman, Jack Ma, yesterday, October 24, 2017 at the De La Salle University.
To those who are wondering why the title of today’s column is like that, I would like to share that JAC is the acronym of my name, Joey A. Concepcion.
Going back, I was fortunate to share a few moments with him as I welcomed him to my former school, and as I became the moderator of the segment we had during the program of the university. I was intently preparing this event as it was usually I who do the talking and not the moderating.
In front of students and guests, Jack Ma was also bestowed with a Doctor of Science in Technopreneurship, Honoris Causa.
Like many other entrepreneurs, Dr. Jack Ma’s entrepreneurial journey is a mix of both successes and challenges. He has been open about his humble beginnings including how he got rejected in job applications in fast-food chains and well-known university, Harvard.
Launched in 1999, Dr. Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group (Alibaba.com) is a one-stop sourcing platform bringing products in over 40 different major categories such as consumer electronics, machinery, and apparel. It is now leading in global wholesale trade serving millions of buyers and suppliers around the world. Its mission is to make business easy to do anywhere by giving the suppliers necessary tools to reach a global audience for their products and helping buyers find products and suppliers in the fastest way possible.
Prior to having him in the program, we had a private talk during which I shared with him our 3Ms of Entrepreneurship to which I can say he agreed well on its importance and the assistance it can provide to our MSMEs. He believes in this framework of Market, Money, and Mentorship because it is what they are doing. In fact, they will soon launch a mentorship program and has the possibility of partnering with us. For money, they have provided solution through Alipay, an online payment solution. And of course, their strength which is e-commerce.
When I asked him on how brick-and-mortar businesses can survive, he shared that the business-to-business model has to shift to the consumer-to-business format. Indicating that the internet will allow consumers to dictate what products they want and to get them faster.
He advised traditional businessmen, “Please change quickly. It’s not the competitor who is killing you. It’s the future. Don’t be scared of technology. – When you refuse to use technology, it’s like you’re refusing to use electricity.”
He also clarified that Alibaba is not an e-commerce company, but an e-commerce enabler since e-commerce makes up just about 20 percent of their business.
In the event, Dr. Jack Ma said that, “It’s not technology that changed the world. It’s the dream behind technology that changed the world.” I admire Dr. Jack Ma’s philosophy that the power of technology lays not on the technology itself. It is true. Technology changed because of the imagination, talent and vision of people in achieving technological advancement.
As we are entering a third technology revolution, Dr. Jack emphasized that companies should make full use of the internet to win in the coming years. He even went further and said that in the future, there will only be “Made in the Internet.”
He also said that if something does not work anymore, do not believe that you are always right. Work with the people who will believe in your crazy dream but find the courage to change all the time. He said that no matter how smart one is, if he doesn’t know how to work with people, he won’t succeed.
Dr. Jack Ma believes that infrastructure for small business in the Philippines is important. The banking system should also be able to work for and benefit of the people, even suggesting that a cashless system will be helpful in making transactions easier and better in an archipelago such as ours.
In a way, I see myself in Dr. Jack Ma, such that all my life, my passion is to solve poverty. We both think that as entrepreneurs, we have a duty to enable people to get an access to money and market. And of course, mentorship through the inspirational talks and direct mentorship of mentor-entrepreneurs like him.
With the vigor and passion that Dr. Jack Ma has for entrepreneurship, I hope that Filipino entrepreneurs will remain persistent and go further towards prosperity.