Richard Liu Giangdong is among the most popular names in the world of e-commerce. He is popularly known as the founder and former CEO of JD.com, the second-largest e-commerce player in China after Alibaba.
Often referred to as the “Jeff Bezos of China,” Liu managed to create a company that provides local and global product brands to consumers in China through the internet.
Many compare JD.com to the Amazon of China. Behind all the success of Liu Qiangdong lies a story of sacrifice and resilience.
From his impoverished background, no one would have thought that Liu would be among the Chinese billionaires of this century. Luckily, he did not let the hardships he experienced squash his dreams.
Keep reading to learn more about Liu Qangdong’s story and what inspired him to rise above the ashes to become as successful as he is today.
Born in 1973, in a small arid coal village south of Beijing, Richard Liu Qiangdong was raised in poverty by coal-shipping parents.
During one of his interviews, he describes how he only ate sweet potatoes and corn throughout the year and only tasted pork twice every year after his grandmother visited the local co-op and gave the seller peanuts in exchange for the fattest cut available.
It is important to note that Liu’s family was not always poor. They were ship owners who transported products throughout China. They lost everything and were forcefully resettled within the country at least twice.
Despite all these hardships, Liu’s parents and grandmother never failed to teach him how to treat and act around others. They also taught him that everything could change within a short period, and setbacks are inevitable in life.
Because of his low-income family background, Liu Qiangdong always believed that education would save him and his family and put them in a better societal position. He believed education would help him broaden his horizons and provide him with credible opportunities to advance in life.
Even though his family was poor, he completed his school years and went to one of the best universities, People’s University, in China.
It is documented that although transport to the capital was very expensive ($75), especially for those who survived farming, his family and friends from their hometown made contributions in the form of money and eggs to ensure he could achieve his education goals.
While studying Sociology at the University, Liu was always looking for opportunities to challenge and develop himself. Despite the rigorous curriculum in the school, he managed to get a job to sustain himself while studying. His first job was writing letters by hand for companies that did not have the financial capacity to buy a photocopy machine.
He also learned coding, computer programming, and other internet-related topics when e-commerce was developing. At the time, numerous market reforms in China promoted capitalism. Thus, as one of the few computer engineers on the market then, he made a lot of money to sustain himself and his family.
He bought himself a computer and mobile phone and built his family a new home. He even tried to launch a restaurant near his University, but the venture eventually failed due to a lack of management experience and dishonest employees.
Liu graduated from the University with a BA in Sociology and started working at Japan Life, a giant herbal supplement brand. He proceeded with his education by acquiring an Executive Master of Business
Administration (EMBA) at China Europe International Business School within two years.
During this time, he also rose in ranks at his job to become the director of computers and service.
He was still intrigued about starting his own business. In 1998, he purchased a booth at the spacious technological bazaars in Zhongguancun, where he sold genuine magneto-optical products, which were rare in that market. He immediately stood out as a reputable vendor, increasing his client base.
Within five years of operating his stall, he developed it into a network of 12 brick-and-mortar outlets carrying a wide range of gadgets. Qiangdong’s business was extremely profitable and would have probably remained on this conventional retail business plan if not for what occurred afterward.
The SARS pandemic struck China in the early months of 2003, and the streets of Beijing were quickly empty as people sought refuge in their houses to avoid contracting the infection.
Qiangdong, like many other companies at the time, shut all of its storefronts but had a few trusted employees who started putting their products on internet bulletin boards. Once the epidemic passed and he restarted business operations in his shop, he began recognizing the expanding market share of e-commerce.
Consequently, he decided to retain one of his employees to continue posting products on the internet bulletin boards. By the close of that year, he had crunched the figures and decided to close his retail outlets and begin online operations indefinitely. Thus, the birth of JD.com, originally known as 360buy.com, was in 2004.
When Liu Qiangdong decided to close his brick-and-mortar retail stores, he decided that this entrepreneurial journey had to be successful. He had taken the fastest computing machine from his office and opted to live at the workplace to save on rent.
Due to his computer programming background, he coded the website himself and handled customer care support responsibilities personally for the first four years. He also did deliveries himself and still does to this day, but only once every year.
By 2017, the company had attained undocumented logistic networks, requiring him to make various changes in his business. He now had to include shipping, warehouse storage, and customer as in-house business duties rather than contracting a third party.
Beginning in 2007, Qiangdong and the firm established an unequaled logistics network, bringing components of the business in-house, such as warehouse storage, shipping, and customer support, rather than leasing them out to third parties.
Not only did this allow them to oversee the supply chain from warehouse to client’s doorstep and provide outstanding customer care from start to finish, but it also allowed them to enter the market of traditionally neglected third and fourth-tier locations like those Qiangdong was brought up in.
It is worth noting that this cutting-edge logistics network is now considered one of the corporate highlights in the ecommerce industry, with 90% of supplies from JD.com arriving within a maximum of 48 hours.
Today, Qiangdong’s ambition is to not only provide a dependable e-commerce company for customers but also become a disruptor and innovator within the industry.
For instance, JD.com has the largest number of drones for delivery and has partnered with giant global brands to provide various high-quality items to its over 300 million users.
The company is also known to provide unrivaled customer support in the ecommerce space. JD.com’s roots have now grown beyond their online shop into medicinal items, fresh food, and even the reopening of retail storefronts.
Over the years, the site has become the go-to site for quick service and a top-notch online shopping experience in China.
How often have you thought about a business idea and not had the courage to see it through? How many times has a fear of the unknown deterred you from thinking big?
If there is anything we can learn from Liu Qiangdong’s story is that anything is possible, provided you are motivated and willing to work hard. Despite his humble beginnings, he always believed in his dreams and did everything he needed to do to achieve them.
Thanks to his friends and family’s massive support, he could pursue his education and begin his career, no matter his challenges. He always kept his vision in mind and passionately aimed his career and entrepreneurial journey.
Many of his peers today respect him for his integrity and honesty, values he was taught in his early childhood years. Here are some more moral lessons we can deduce from this inspirational story:
– You must not limit your mentality if you want to be successful in life.
Regardless of where we come from, anyone can be successful with the right mindset. Do not give up after the first few failures; it is just a way of life telling you to try again. So, always put your chin up and charge forward confidently while chasing your dreams
– Knowledge is key.
Although many may argue that knowledge is gained from experience, it is best always to have information about your niche while venturing into a specific industry.
Like Liu, who learned computer programming and coding when e-commerce initially gained traction in
China, it is also never too late for you to learn new skills and acquire more knowledge.
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