Richard Liu Qiangdong is a poor farm boy turned international entrepreneurial billionaire. His family owned a tiny shipping company that transported coal from northern regions in China to the southern regions. When he enrolled at Renmin University, he studied for a career in politics, but that dream fell short after he realized he couldn’t make much money in politics.
After experiencing the freedom and monetary benefits of working as a freelance coder, Richard Liu Qiangdong set his sights on a more business-focused career. Being his own boss inspired him to try entrepreneurship, but his first attempt at running his own business ended in debt.
While attending the China Europe International Business School, he bought a small restaurant using freelance money and some family loans. He only put about two hours a week into the restaurant, so it’s no surprise that the business fell flat after only a few months. The experience did teach him that owning a business would require his full attention.
In 1996, he earned his EMBA and started working at Japan Life, a health products company. He quickly worked his way up the corporate ladder and held many high-ranking positions before leaving the company in 1998.
Later that year, the opened a cozy, four-square-meter shop that only sold magneto-optical products. That little store became one of the hottest spots in Beijing’s industrial park. By 2003, there were 12 Jingdong locations throughout the city. Unfortunately, that same year brought China’s devastating SARS outbreak.
SARS made face-to-face interactions dangerous for everyone, so people began living more homebound lives. To remedy his company’s biggest problem, Richard Liu Qiangdong looked for new ways to reach customers. His solution was to move his company online and reach people without ever leaving their homes.
Jingdong became JD.com and one of China’s largest e-commerce platforms was born. Today, JD.com is a worldwide phenomenon that reaches over 300 million Chinese customers. JD.com sells everything from basic technology products to free-range chicken meat products.
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