Jack Ma may be seen today as an e-commerce visionary, but the billionaire businessman has revealed that he was first inspired to build his empire by the dreams of another Asian icon: Malaysia's current prime minister.
The Alibaba founder told reporters on Monday of how Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's plans to turn Malaysia's capital into a high-tech business center had driven him to launch a digital business aimed at similarly revolutionizing China's tech scene.
Ma said the idea had dawned on him 20 years ago when he read in a newspaper about Mahathir's "Multimedia Super Corridor," or MSC — part of an agenda to modernize the country.
"My inspiration came from the MSC," Ma said on a visit to Putrajaya, a city just outside of Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur.
"I started my business in 1995. [I] started the China Pages — the first internet company in China — and I was wondering where to go," recalled Ma. "[I was wondering] how internet, how this kind of technology, digital technology can empower society, empower people."