The customer should always be first, insists Alibaba Group founder

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Jack Ma during his public lecture at the University of Nairobi
Jack Ma during his public lecture at the University of Nairobi

Alibaba Group founder and executive chairman Jack Ma has advised entrepreneurs, aspiring entrepreneurs and employers in the country to prioritize the customers’ platform above everything else. The business magnate has said the order of priority should be right for employers, “Always remember the customer is number one, the employee number two, then the shareholder number three. This is different from the model in America, where the shareholder is number one,” he said, “If you make the customer happy they’ll pay the money if you make employees happy they’ll be creative and innovative and the shareholder will be happy.

The tycoon reiterated that entrepreneurs should make use of the available opportunities, where there are problems and complaints, adding that real entrepreneurs never wait for government resources, “If you wait you are not an entrepreneur, you aren’t inspirational,” he said.

While giving a public lecture at the University of Nairobi, the Alibaba founder said young people have many opportunities available, and they shouldn’t be afraid of failure, “You have to get used to failure. It’s like boxing, where you must get used to being hit, or else you can’t win,” he said, adding that he had to get through many failures and rejection to get to where he is now. He revealed that at his company, they teach entrepreneurs about failure, “People are taught too many success stories, and they get crazy about success but when you teach failure stories they learn. No matter how smart you are in business you’ll make mistakes,” said Jack Ma.

Alibaba Group founder and executive chairman Jack Ma at Nailab (CREDIT.Nailab)
Alibaba Group founder and executive chairman Jack Ma at Nailab (CREDIT.Nailab)

With the changing business atmosphere and ever evolving platform, Jack Ma said the internet is slowly taking over and urged the youth to think about the future. “Nobody believed in 1999 that anything could be sold online, the internet speed was so slow,” he said, “In the future, the business will be online if you can’t sell stuff across Africa you’ll not be successful.”

The advice he gave to Kenya and Africa as a whole is the need to speed up, “For one day I get a feeling there is a vision but things have to be done in speed,” saying that people also need to be efficiency-driven and focus on fair trade.