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How Richard Liu Qiangdong Turned A Small Store Into China’s Largest Online Retailer


Long-term success is often predicated by short-term failure. This is something that Richard Liu Qiangdong learned throughout his career. Despite being the founder of Jingdong, China’s largest online retailer, Richard Liu went through several stumbles in his early career. The first of these was a restaurant that he founded that only lasted a few short months. Following this, he worked with health food supplement provider Japan Life for several years, chiefly serving in its IT department. Despite the success he was achieving with the firm, Qiangdong’s entrepreneurial passion still drove him.

This led to Richard Liu Qiangdong leaving the firm to establish a small store named Jingdong in 1998. Drawing on the lessons he learned from his previous ventures, he soon began expanding the company. Despite the computer parts company being a modest four-square-meters in size, it became known for its customer service. With this growing reputation, Jingdong began expanding across Beijing, eventually including over a dozen storefronts across the city. Similar to many other companies, there were several challenges to overcome. Richard Liu overcame these by continually adapting the company to market preferences.

A SARS outbreak threatened to put Jingdong’s growth to a halt. Like the other challenges that the company faced, Richard Liu Qiangdong overcame this and quickly pivoted to selling online, establishing the JD.com platform. As the website became more successful, the business increasingly focused on its e-commerce division; by 2004, Jingdong had become online-only and had closed each of its stores. This helped the company’s founder to focus more on increasing scale while also keeping costs relatively low. Through this, JD.com was able to expand its operations and began attracting product manufacturers from across the city, and eventually beyond.

These partnerships began creating a cycle whereby more products would be added to JD.com, which attracted more customers. This increasing popularity brought in more manufacturers, which fed back into a growing consumer base. Richard Liu Qiangdong continued to lead the company throughout this time and oversaw all of its expansion. In the 21 years since it was established, Jingdong’s revenues have skyrocketed to a reported $37 billion as of 2016, a figure which continues to increase.

Liu Qiangdong: Twitter.

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