His story, our story: Lessons from Alibaba's Jack Ma

Rose Carmelle Lacuata, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 25 2017 09:27 PM

Alibaba CEO Jack Ma answers questions during a forum at the De La Salle University in Manila. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - A simple invitation from a group of students wanting to learn from one of Asia's richest men led to an encouraging two-hour discussion on Wednesday. 

Chinese billionaire entrepreneur Jack Ma was in De La Salle University in Manila to talk about his experiences and to encourage students to believe in their dreams.

For Mikee De Vega, DLSU University Student Government president, Ma's story of success and failures is similar to those of university students.

"I felt, and my team, felt he's an inspiration to the youth because of that kind of message that he provides: that his own story was not just a success story but fan po kami of the fact that he also talks about his failures. Because it's basically the story of the youth nowadays, the story of dreamers who are not really encouraged to dream, stories of people who don't do everything perfectly naman but also who go through failures, but we nonetheless try," she said, explaining why she and her team invited Ma to have a dialogue with students.

"Jack Ma is already well-known among the youth when it comes to the inspiration he provides. Kasi, especially for university students, we often get caught up in the idea na we need to know this, we need to know these theories, we need to know these ideas, na I think the missing component is, the youth are not really encouraged to do nowadays is to dream, to dream crazy ideas or to believe that greater things that don't currently exist can be done," she added.

Through contacts at the Department of Finance, De Vega and her team reached Ma's Alibaba team.


Photo courtesy of Thea Tagulao, The LaSallian Facebook 

They were lucky that Ma was already planning to go to the Philippines and he accepted their invitation.

"We wanted to bring in Mr. Ma to have that conversation with us so that we can also personally learn from his story and also follow-up on past stories that he's already told people," De Vega said.

And Ma did succeed in inspiring the students who attended his talk.

For Maria Andrea Figueroa, a 3rd year Psychology and Business Management student, listening to Ma was worth waking up early and lining up for tickets.

"I felt like it was an honor to be there because he's such an experienced person, and then he went through so many ups and downs in his life so it's really refreshing to hear what he has to say about what we students can do, especially when he told us na embrace the challenges instead of avoiding them because the most important thing a person should do is learn. Learn, learn, learn," she said.

Ghabrielle Ieasha Sta. Ana, a 4th year European Studies and Applied Corporate Management student, said Ma gave hope to underdogs like her.

"What I learned kasi is 'yung sobrang nakaka-affect sa akin na sinabi niya is 'yung do not get the best people but the right people kasi sobrang naka-empower lalo na sa underdogs like us na hindi naman marami 'yung connections namin, hindi kami super rich, may mga taong average lang pero he gives us a chance na pwede rin kaming maging succesful sa future," she added.

For Miguel Jaime Miranda, a mechanical engineering student, lessons he learned from Ma will stay with him as he goes through life.

"There are three points he said, which are: what you want, what you have, and what will you give up. So, what you want, that's your dream 'di ba? What you have is your resources as of now, and then what you will give up, siyempre in every struggle, in every business or in every thing we do, we always have to sacrifice something. It's either time, or effort or sleep, in that case, even in school, so these are the three things that I always think about. Well, I will start thinking about as I go through college and working and business, in everything," he said.

Ma is the founder and chairman of e-commerce giant Alibaba.