Jack Ma was inspired to create Alibaba by Malaysia’s PM Mahathir Mohamad

“Then, one day I was reading the newspaper, and saw this Multimedia Super Corridor and I said ‘Wow! This is a genius idea. How can this thing happen?’” he continued.

“The day when I read this news in China in 1997 I said: If Malaysia could, why China could not have it? If this kind of thing could happen, why I should not start for myself in my apartment?”

“So, Malaysia inspired me on and this morning I thank [the prime minister] for his great inspiration for MSC.”

The now-92-year-old was 72 when his tech strategy inspired the then-33-year-old emerging e-commerce titan Ma.

In under two years, Ma went on to launch Alibaba with a team of three other co-founders. Today, the company is one of the world’s largest online retailers.

Mahathir’s strategy was first announced in 1996, though he was replaced in office in 2003. Ma is the first Chinese tech leader to visit the country since Mahathir was re-elected in a landmark election in May. The Malaysian National News Agency, Tech News, announced his visit on Twitter.

Ma said he planned to continue to look to the politician for tech inspiration.

“I know so little about technology, so when I talk to him I think I should go back to read more books,” Ma joked.

Ma and Mahathir are not the only ones to highlight the role of reading in their success. Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Arianna Huffington are all strong proponents of the value of books. Gates, for one, this year gifted one of his favorites to U.S. college grads.

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