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Predicting Internet's future without a crystal ball

Updated: 2015-09-04 09:03
(China Daily)

Predicting Internet's future without a crystal ball

Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Success depends on the ability to go the extra mile, says Alibaba founder

Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, one of the largest Internet companies in the world, believes the next three decades will see an explosion of Internet-enabled opportunities and enterprises.

"History shows that it takes about 50 years to complete a technological revolution. The Internet era is just two decades old," said the executive chairman of the group at a recent meeting with college students in Beijing. "The next three decades will be the prime time for the Internet to grow."

A self-made man who started his Internet empire from an apartment in 1999, Ma said innovation will be the key in future as the Internet plays a more central role in driving growth.

"In the next three decades, traditional businesses and Internet companies will be fully integrated and they will rely on innovation to push forward," he said.

This year, the e-commerce giant established a HK$10 billion fund ($1.3 billion) in Hong Kong and a 20 billion yuan ($3.17 billion) fund in Taiwan to encourage local startups. In May, it also revealed plans to set up a special fund for women entrepreneurs.

But Ma, who stepped down as Alibaba's CEO two years ago, also acknowledged the extremely high rate of failure in entrepreneurship, predicting that among 100 budding entrepreneurs, 95 will fail even before they take off. "The winner in the end will be the one who loves what he or she is on, has a good team, is persistent and willing to take time to grow the business," Ma said.

The following are edited excerpts of Ma's answers to questions from the audience at the Beijing Union University.

How will the Internet shape the next three decades of mankind?

The next three decades will see the full integration of traditional industries and the Internet. Knowledge, innovation and creation will be the key words.

If in the past three or five decades, the world has been revolving around manufacturing, then innovation will be the focus of future.

More successful enterprises will emerge and the number of rich people will exceed that of today. It depends on whether you are brave enough to take the step.

Currently most of the industries are scrambling to jump onto the Internet Plus bandwagon. How do you see this initiative?

Neither Internet companies nor traditional businesses can thrive in the next 20 years unless they join hands. Internet companies which only focus on the Internet sector will degrade into traditional businesses and finally be driven out of the market.

In fact, no traditional industries will die out, because there is nothing called bad industry. There are only poorly performing enterprises.

Just like entrepreneurs who would rather use manpower than electricity-powered machines, they can survive but they must work very hard and are less likely to survive.

If traditional enterprises don't embrace the Internet, chances are fewer for them to succeed.

Also, if they do, they are not guaranteed with success, but they are more likely to survive and prevail.

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