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trueHUE® Water cooler stories
Now he is 43 and worth nearly $11bn. He may bristle at the comparison but I am talking to the Jeff Bezos of China.
Richard, as he likes to be known to foreigners, founded the e-commerce company JD.com as a single counter in a Beijing electronics market in the late 1990s. Now it is the third-largest internet company in terms of revenues, behind Amazon and Google but well ahead of Facebook, number four.
It was just three years ago that China overtook the US as the largest e-commerce market — but last year China’s total online retail transactions hit an estimated $750bn, nearly double the figure in the US. Most analysts predict China’s online retail market will more than double again by 2020, by which time Chinese online purchases are expected to exceed those of the US, UK, France, Germany and Japan combined. It is this projection that has made Richard China’s 16th richest man — and makes him so confident in his future.
“Within five years I’m 100 per cent sure we will be the largest B2C [business to consumer] platform in China — we will surpass any competitor.”
As I know only too well, online shopping has taken off so dramatically in China in part because of the frustrations of relying on traditional retail. In big cities, shopping frequently involves sitting for hours in traffic, bargaining relentlessly with shopkeepers who never display prices and discovering later your purchase is counterfeit or poor quality.
“My parents and grandparents taught us a lot — not Chinese or maths but a sense of values, of how you should be and how you should treat others,” he says. They also drilled into him the knowledge they had once been very rich but everything had been taken away — a lesson all too relevant even now.