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Jack Ma, Chairman & CEO Alibaba Group

  • Story Highlights
  • Jack Ma, Chairman & CEO, Alibaba Group, talks to CNN's Andrew Stevens
  • The 42-year-old has built up China's largest e-commerce company
  • Hopes his company will be among the world's top five Web companies
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(CNN) -- Jack Ma, Chairman & CEO, Alibaba Group, is a small, unassuming man, who has achieved big things and has even larger ambitions.


Jack Ma, Chairman & CEO, Alibaba Group

"In five years among the top five Internet companies in the world one of them will be from China and I hope that we will be that one," he says.

The 42-year-old has built up China's largest e-commerce company and, in 2005, attracted the tech giant Yahoo! to buy 40 percent of the privately-held business for a billion U.S. dollars.

As part of that deal, Ma's Alibaba Group now owns Yahoo! China.

The venture Jack Ma launched out of his Hangzhou apartment in 1999 has expanded into 5 companies and now employees about 5,000 people.

Ma prides himself on being a self-made man. "I am 100 percent made in China. I taught myself English in China and I have never been educated outside of China."

And no matter if he is taking part in a company-organized wedding party or showing off his favorite hometown spot, West Lake, Ma embraces it all.

CNN's Andrew Stevens first asked the Hangzhou native why, as a boy, he would cycle 45 minutes every day to one of the tourist hotels around West Lake to practice his English with tourists.

Ma: "I find it interesting. I find that when I listen to these foreign tourists, what they talk about, and I learn from the schools are different. For example, 1985 my first trip to leave China to Australia. Before that I was told that China was the richest country in the world and we are the happiest people in the world. We are supposed to liberate the world. When I arrived in Australia, I said "Oh My God" things are different, right? They should liberate us. To know that the world is different from what you think and from what you learn. That is the thing that keeps me growing and growing.

Stevens: You are a student and a fan of the Chinese author Jin Yong. He writes wushu novels about ancient heroes. You have said you have taken lessons from his books and applied them to your business. How exactly?

Ma: The Jin Yong book tell me that whatever you want to be a great person or a great company you have to work very hard. And you have to suffer a lot of terrible things before you can be a hero. It is quite spiritual. And think out of the box. You have to think out of the box to win.

Stevens: In 2005 Yahoo! spent a billion dollars buying 40 percent of Alibaba. Now under that deal Alibaba took over all of Yahoo's operations here in China. At the moment Yahoo! China isn't making money. So what lessons did you learn from those first few months of integration?

Ma: To change the culture of the company, it is very difficult. It is a difficult company. So we like most young companies we believe that we are so good and we believe that we can do it so we have a high expectation and people have a high expectation, we want to do things quick. And suddenly we realize no good. It is impossible. So now we have patience. We know we have the people we have restructured the company and restructured the culture and we have the time and we have the cash. And we have the customers. So let's take it a long time.


Stevens: So what is your vision for Alibaba? Is it global domination?

Ma: I think that the Internet is changing people and it has changed the world. In the next 20 years most of the things and most of the people in the world will be using the Internet. Like today people use electricity. So I believe that in 10 years in the world there are three top Internet companies and one of them will be from China and Alibaba wants to be that one of them. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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