Small is beautiful for 21st century: Jack Ma
CHIEF executives of the world's biggest companies will meet Apec leaders at Suntec today to begin discussions on ways to rebuild the global economy.
But yesterday, Chinese entrepreneur Jack Ma of alibaba.com had a different message for 700 bosses of small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) attending the Apec SME Summit at nearby Raffles City: Small is beautiful.
'In the last century, big was better,' said the China-based e-commerce company's founder. 'But in the 21st century, I believe small is beautiful because it is not about how much equipment you have, it is about how quickly you can change yourself to meet the market.'
Giving a rousing keynote address at the event - regarded as a sideshow to today's Apec CEO Summit - Mr Ma took a poke at larger corporates that suffered beatings during the financial crisis.
Speaking to a packed ballroom, he said the crisis had been disastrous for many big names in the West. 'All the big companies which we all wanted to be like - today, they have all died. But we SMEs - yes we felt the pain - but we are happier now because we survived.'
Mr Ma, who trained as a high school teacher in Hangzhou, founded the Alibaba Group in 1999 after successfully starting China Pages, widely believed to be the mainland's first dot.com, in 1995.
A popular speaker at global business conferences, he also gave his take on government bailouts offered to larger companies and financial institutions.
'We have heard so many stories about big companies in trouble... They are the troublemakers, we should not give them so much support, let them die, it is time for them to die,' he said, to loud applause.
Mr Ma added that if governments want strong economies, they should turn their attention to SMEs and give incentives to individuals starting their own businesses.His reason: SME owners may start small, but they dream big: 'We believe we are tomorrow's Google, we believe we are tomorrow's eBay, we believe we are tomorrow's UPS.'
Singapore's Minister of State for Trade and Industry Lee Yi Shyan also called for Apec economies to focus their efforts on helping smaller companies.
'While we might have moved out of the worst of the financial crisis, the foundation of recovery is still fragile and can be weakened