How a Poor Delivery Man Just Became China’s Third Richest Man

The third richest man in China, trailing behind Dalian Wanda’s Wang Jianlin and Alibaba’s Jack Ma, has made quite a name for himself after getting his start from illegal business activities.

Wang Wei is the founder of SF Express, a company that came to be known as “China’s FedEx”.

On Tuesday, the company’s shares increased by 10% for a fourth straight session, pushing Wang’s wealth to 180.4 billion yuan ($26 billion). As a result, he replaced Tencent founder Pony Ma Huateng’s spot to become the country’s third richest man, at least for a day.

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SF Holdings Group, which operates SF Express, also went public last week. It is now valued at 262 billion yuan ($38 billion).

With a $13,000 loan from his father, Wang founded SF Express in 1993 in Guangdong province. However, his transactions were far from legal at the time — China only legalized postal and delivery businesses in 2009.

Wang told People’s Daily in a 2011 interview (via South China Morning Post):

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“When SF started delivering packages in the 1990s, it was still an illegal business called ‘black delivery.’ We would be fined if caught by postal officers, so we had to handle packages sneakily.”

SF Express started with six men and a van at Wang’s disposal. Now, his company has 400,000 employees and a fleet of 35 planes.

Many look up to Wang’s success, especially now that he knows what it’s like to live in poverty. He said in recent speech:

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“I know the taste of being poor, of being discriminated against by people for being poor. My parents were university professors in the mainland but their academic records were not recognised when we moved to Hong Kong when I was little. So we started from scratch.”

Yet some believe it’s tough to follow Wang’s lead, especially in today’s era of hyper-competition and rising wages. Song Qinghui, an independent economist, said:

“The success of Wang can partly be traced back to the time he started the business. The robust economic growth after the 1990s in China gave birth to explosive demand for timely deliveries. Replication of his success, would be difficult.”

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Wang currently seats at the 26th spot in Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index.

Images via YouTube

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