As a young man, Liu Qiangdong had an interest in politics. But after graduating in 1996 with a sociology degree from Beijing’s prestigious Renmin University, he instead decided to go into business instead by opening a restaurant. This first venture was a failure: within a year the restaurant shut down, leaving Liu in debt.
Second time lucky
In 1998, Liu set up Jingdong Corporation in Zhong Guan Cun, an area known for its electronics markets. Liu’s presence started off small – he got a counter in a market and became a sales agent for magnetic-optical products. Not everyone was supportive, including his girlfriend at the time, who wondered how a graduate from Renmin University could live such a life. Her parents looked down on entrepreneurship too.
Liu was not to be put off and by 2003, he had plans to open a chain of stores across the country. But the SARS crisis then made traditional retailing unattractive, as shoppers were avoiding stores for fear of infection. Liu took the opportunity to launch e-commerce site Jingdong Multimedia Network in 2004, which eventually became 360buy Jindong Mall, his most famous storefront.
A case of E-xpansion?
Since going online, 360buy has enjoyed average annual sales growth of more than 300%. The company is now one of China’s largest online retailers, with a focus on the three ‘C’s: computers, communication devices, and consumer electronics. In 2010, sales on 360buy reached Rmb10.2 billion.
The target for 2011 is much more ambitious, with an upper range of Rmb26 billion.
Liu’s success has attracted investors. In December last year, his firm completed a round of financing of $500 million from a group including US retailing giant Walmart. Much of the money will be spent on improving the firm’s warehousing and distribution network. Liu has said that there is no need of further financing until 360buy lists, which he hopes will happen in 2013.
In his own words
Liu claims that he has no business idols. He also resists comparing his company with others: “Every company has a different corporate culture and is formed in a different environment. No-one needs to learn from others.”
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