Liu Jiren was born in Dandong in Liaoning province in 1955. He achieved two major academic honours in his youth, becoming China’s first state-trained computer applications PhD and, at 33, the country’s youngest professor.
Liu wanted to establish a laboratory to conduct his research to international standards, but he needed funding. In 1991 the Alpine Company of Japan visited China looking for a research group to work on a software system for a car. Liu offered to work on the project for $300,000 – thinking the Japanese would never agree to such a price. They did. The Neo-Alpine Software Institute was later set up. This would become Neusoft, which listed in 1996.
Liu’s firm enjoyed rapid growth, and today the Shenyang Neusoft campus houses 8,000 staff, with an average age of 26. Neusoft is China’s largest IT solutions and offshore software outsourcing services provider. Worth Rmb30,000 in 1991, it had grown to a market capitalization of Rmb20 billion by 2008.
Liu’s software is used by the social security settlement system and by telecoms operators for their billings. As Liu points out: “If you make a mobile phone call in Beijing, there is a 30% possibility that you would use our software; if you pay social security, there is a 50% possibility.”
Like Microsoft, Neusoft started as a software firm, but after inking a JV with Philips in 2004 he moved into the hardware business too, producing medical devices, including China’s first domestically-made CT scanner.
Liu also has ambitions to take Neusoft global. Last October he bought three Finnish companies that make mobile phone software. He says the economic crisis gave him a good opportunity to acquire overseas: “compared to software companies in India, our company has a unique ‘made in China’ advantage that can bring together software and manufacturing like we do in medical services.”
Liu can play the flute, the erhu, the violin, the Beijing opera fiddle and the guitar. He is also an expert in woodcarving, having carved more than 100 Chairman Mao heads. Oh yes, and he’s also moulded his own pistol.
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