Born in 1938, Yin Mingshan entered business somewhat late in life. Caught up in the political chaos of the Cultural Revolution, he was banished from his native Chongqing to work on a farm until he was rehabilitated in 1979.
He then worked as an English teacher, before taking a job with a publishing house, which led to his first commercial success as one of Chongqing’s biggest private booksellers.
In the saddle
At the age of 54, Yin decided to shift into a completely different industry, when he set up Chongqing Hongda Institute of Vehicle Accessories. The company made motorcycles that resembled Honda bikes but at cut-price levels. Sales were good, and a few years later, the company started exporting to places such as Vietnam and Laos.
Yin set up a series of companies that were restructured into Lifan Hongda Industry (Group). Another change in name was just around the corner after a lawsuit from Honda forced Yin to abandon the “Hongda” brand.
Lawsuits notwithstanding, Yin was on a roll. By 2003, the Lifan Group had sales revenue of more than Rmb6 billion, with exports worth $200 million. The group had a large network of manufacturing facilities, sales companies and overseas subsidiaries.
The next step was to move into making cars, and in 2006 the company released a five-seat sedan that sold for less than Rmb50,000. Plans were drawn up for an IPO, although they went on hold due to the financial crisis. The company last month got regulatory approval to list in Shanghai in a deal that could raise up to Rmb1.48 billion.
72 and counting
Already one of Chongqing’s richest men, the listing is expected to consolidate Yin’s status in the city (according to some estimates, the IPO would bring his family wealth to Rmb9.1 billion).
At 72, Yin shows little sign of slowing down yet.
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