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Profound truths from Jack Ma’s talk

1. Hire many women

Hiring women is one of the secrets of success for Alibaba. According to Jack Ma women take care of others better that men and by investing in them you invest in the people that invest in everybody else.

“Women have a higher emotional intelligence,” said Ma. He revealed that 47-48 per cent of his staff are women while 33 per cent of the senior management in Alibaba are women occupying senior positions such as CEO, president and CFO.

It’s a lesson we can adopt as a country given that there is a disparity of over 10 per cent between men and women in the workforce. Fewer women occupy the top positions. This is according to a report titled No Ceilings: The full participation released by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2015.

2. Leverage on the youth

Noting that Africa has the youngest population in the world under the age of 30, Jack Ma urged entrepreneurs and companies to leverage on this. “Young people have passion and ideas,” he said.

By starting to pursue their dreams early, young people would have a chance to learn from their mistakes even if they failed initially. With over 20 per cent of the population between the age of 15 and 24 that is 200 million people being youths, Africa has the most youthful population in the world.

These youths form an impressive pool of talent, creativity, energy and ideas, which is an opportunity for economic growth in the continent. However, the first step to realising this growth lies with youths taking initiative.

3. Opportunities exist where people complain

There lies great opportunity in solving the existing problems in the society. “The world is challenging and a lot of people complain. Opportunity always exists where people complain.

Think about how you can solve it and if you can then you have a chance,” he noted. Businesses that were most likely to succeed were those focused on solving the existing problems other than simply amassing wealth. Youths have an opportunity to set up successful businesses by solving the numerous problems Africa faces.

4. The power of Internet

With the fast changes in technology the billionaire noted that it would be difficult to ignore the Internet in the near future as most businesses would shift online.

“I believe 80 to 90 per cent of business will be online,” said Jack. He said the world was experiencing the third technology revolution, which will make machines smarter than human beings.

“The first technology revolution reduced the energy humans use, making machines stronger than them. It caused World War One. The second reduced the speed of human beings and made machines faster and caused the Second World War. He said only companies that leverage on the power of the Internet will succeed.

5. Care for the environment

Referring to China as the kitchen of the world Jack Ma pointed to how intense industrialisation greatly contributed to massive pollution in his country.

He urged Kenya not to copy the business model of other countries such as China, but rather adopt its own unique way of doing business without harming the environment.”

You people are living in paradise… Africa should be Africa. Protect the environment, protect the animals. It’s easy to build buildings, but it’s not easy to get the animals back,” he said.

China is paying a high price for rapid industrialisation. In 2016 the country was losing up to 6.5 per cent of its GDP to pollution-related costs.

6. A new way of doing business

“The world manufacturing sector is shifting from business to customer to customer to business. The normal way is that businesses think of something and then sell to customers,” said Jack.

In future because of data technology Jack thinks it is the consumer who will dictate what the manufacturer will produce. Therefore manufacturers must make their products smart, tailor-made, not large scale.

He said the traditional model of doing business is gradually being overtaken by events as more consumers in the digital age have become empowered to be the real innovators.

7. People are the greatest resource

Even without any formal training on operating computers or running a business, Jack Ma set up and run one of the most successful e-commerce platforms in the world.

“I never got even one day of training on how to operate computers. Up to today I do not know how computers work,” he said. He attributes his success to his knowledge of how to work with people.

8. Failure should not stop you

Rejected by Harvard 10 times and turned down for 30 jobs, including one at KFC where he applied for the job alongside 23 of his classmates who were all taken except for him, Jack Ma knows too well what it means to fail.

Ma advises young people not to worry too much about failure as it is part of the journey to success. “It’s very painful but I got used to it. You have to get used to failure. Like in boxing if you cannot get used to the punches how can you win,” he says.

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