What I Learnt From Alibaba’s Jack Maa – Strategy With RS

‪Jack Maa‬ is one of my favorite role models.

As an adolescent & a young person he displayed no outward traits that the world look for identifying ‘successful’ people. But he went on to launch the largest ‪#‎IPO‬ in the history of US.

Normally successful people succeed in most things they attempt; Jack Maa failed in most things he attempted – he failed his college entrance examination 3 times ; received 30 job rejections, including KFC; Harvard rejected his application 10 times.

Today ‪#‎Harvard‬ does a case study on ‪#‎Alibaba‬, a company he went on to found. He is ranked among the richest person in ‪#‎China‬.

Jack Maa life should be a source of inspiration & motivation for us. It should inspires us to believe in ourselves, no matter how many failures we have encountered in the past; to continue to pursue our goals with conviction no matter how many rejections the cruel world has heaped on us; continue to relentlessly pursue our dreams no matter how often they have been crushed in the past.

Permit me to introduce you to the thinking of Jack Maa, available to us through his public statements. It will give you a ‘peep’ into his mind & his way of thinking.

1. ‪Mindset‬
*No matter how tough the chase is, you should always have the dream you saw on the first day. It’ll keep you motivated and rescue you (from any weak thoughts).
*Instead of learning from other people’s success, learn from their mistakes. Most of the people who fail share common reasons(to fail) whereas success can be attributed to various different kinds of reasons.
*Help young people. Help small guys. Because small guys will be big. Young people will have the seeds you bury in their minds, and when they grow up, they will change the world.
*When you are small, you have to be very focused and rely on your brain, not your strength.
*It doesn’t matter if I failed. At least I passed the concept on to others. Even if I don’t succeed, someone will succeed.
*It’s very difficult to know the outside world, but you know yourself. If I know myself better, I can change myself to meet the outside world
*You never know how much can you do in your life.

2. ‪Persistence
*Never give up. Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine.
*If you’ve never tried, how will you ever know if there’s any chance?
*If you don’t give up, you still have a chance. Giving up is the greatest failure.

3. ‪‎Business
*You need the right people with you, not the best people.
*Never ever compete on prices, instead compete on services and innovation.
*You’ve to make consumers smart. An e-commerce portal doesn’t sell a product at cheaper rates, instead an offline shop sells it at a costlier prices.
*Today, making money is very simple. But making sustainable money while being responsible to the society and improving the world is very difficult.
*If we are a good team and know what we want to do, one of us can defeat ten of them.
*Intelligent people need a fool to lead them. When the team’s all a bunch of scientists, it is best to have a peasant lead the way. His way of thinking is different. It’s easier to win if you have people seeing things from different perspectives.
*A real businessperson / entrepreneur makes no enemy, once he understands that then sky is the limit.
*If the customer loves you, the government will have to love you.
*Never ever do business with the government. Be in love with them, never marry them.
*We should never finish a 20 year program in two years.
*Opportunity lies in the place where the complaints are.
*I try to make myself happy because I know that if I’m not happy, my colleagues are not happy and my shareholders are not happy and my customers are not happy.
*We never in lack of money. We lack people with dreams, (people) who can die for those dreams.
*We make mistakes when we have money.
*You should learn from your competitor, but never copy. Copy and you die.

A word of caution. Please do not copy Jack Maa’s way of thinking blindly;– read them, absorb them & if after that they still make sense go ahead & make it a part of your life & start living them.

A 1999 Video of Jack Ma (shared by Gaurav Gupta with Rajesh) :




In this series, Rajesh Srivastava, Business Strategist and Visiting Faculty at IIM Indore gives you a regular dose of strategy case studies to help you think and keep you one step ahead as a professional as compared to your peers. Rajesh is an alumnus of IIM Bangalore and IIT Kanpur and has over 2 decades of experience in the FMCG industry. All previous Strategy with RS posts can be found here



Rajesh Srivastava

Indeed Vishnu. Failure teaches us much more than success. And we should remember from Jack Maa that opportunities invariable come disguised as problems; but we focus only at problem/s & allow the opportunity to slip away. and then we lament that we never had opportunity.

Vishnu Shankar

True Sir. Only few could relate themselves to prodigies like Gates, Zuckerberg, Elon Musk. But, most of us could relate ourselves to the likes of Jack Ma, Dr.Kalam.

Sir, would you recommend any book about Jack Ma?

Rajesh Srivastava

Vishnu I would recommend you to read a book on Alibaba titled, ‘Alibaba’s World’ by Porter Erisman. I found it extremely engaging.


“buy an umbrella when you need it”. but don’t you think so that adding funds early and keeping them spare would add to the cost.
since definitely the company would have taken it in advance for a short period of time, hence kept as retained earnings.
a good option would be to take in advance for a longer period of time and reinvest them such that they can be withdrawn as and when needed.