Business Magnates


Text: Jocelyn Lau and Lucien Low


Jack Ma (b.1964), Co-founder, Alibaba


The leader of the multinational business conglomerate is ranked second in the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” by Fortune (2017). He is also well known for his significant contributions to education and social welfare causes. In 2018, Ma received an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Hong Kong for his contributions to society.


Sir Li Ka-shing (b.1928), business magnate & investor 

Hong Kong

“Superman Li” is one of the most influential entrepreneurs in Asia, with a vast and diverse empire that includes banking, hotels and shipping. He is among the richest persons in the world (2018). Despite this, Li leads a frugal lifestyle and donates billions of dollars to charity.

Natalie Behring

Jiang Jianqing (b.1953)
Chairman, Industrial and Commercial Bank
of China (ICBC)


The former chairman of world’s largest commercial bank (by total assets) was featured on “50 Most Influential” list by Bloomberg Markets (2011 & 2012). He is credited for having led ICBC from a state of insolvency in 2000.


Anthony Tan (b.1982), Co-founder, Grab


Southeast Asia’s biggest ride-hailing business, now based in Singapore, hit US$6 billion valuation in January 2018. It has over 100 million app downloads and operates in 168 cities in eight countries, handling more than 7 million drivers and merchants. Grab has branched out into other services, including goods delivery.

Lens Technology

Zhou Qunfei (b.1970), Founder, Lens Technology


The major touchscreen maker is owned by the world’s richest self-made woman (2018). She made the list of “Most Powerful Women of Asia-Pacific” by Fortune in 2016. Her rags-to-riches story is an inspiration to millions of migrant workers in China.


Chatri Sityodtong (b.1971)
Founder, ONE Championship & martial artist


The self-made leading entrepreneur and martial artist is CEO of Asia’s largest sports media property, which has a global broadcast to over 1 billion homes in nearly 120 countries. Sityodtong, who tells a rags-to-riches life story, is also known as an elite coach, motivational speaker and investor with diverse interests. His philanthropic interests are focused on troubled and terminally-ill children around the world.


Wang Jianlin (b.1954), Founder, Dalian Wanda Group


The chairman of China’s largest private property developer and the world’s largest cinema operator has, until recently, consistently ranked as one of the richest men in Asia. He has maintained a close relationship with the Chinese Communist Party while staying “distant from politics”. In 2017, Wang inaugurated the China Cup International Football Championship, an annual tournament organised in China for Asian national football teams.


Robert Kuok (b.1923), business magnate & investor


The richest man in Malaysia (Forbes 2018) has diverse business interests, from sugarcane plantations and palm oil to hotels and newspapers. He’s sometimes called the “world’s shrewdest businessman”. His book, Robert Kuok: A Memoir, turned out to be a runaway success.

Social Brand Watch

Robin Li (b.1968), Co-founder, Baidu


The man known to have beaten Google runs the first Chinese company to be listed in the NASDAQ-100 Index in 2007. The Internet entrepreneur started Baidu, which is now one of the largest Internet and AI companies in the world. Li has received many notable honours awards, including “IT Ten Famous Persons” (2002 & 2003).

Mukesh Ambani (b.1957), Chairman, Reliance Industries


The richest man in India – surpassing Jack Ma’s wealth –
runs India’s “most valuable company” (by market value),
a Fortune Global 500 company. He is the only Indian businessman on the Forbes list of the world’s most powerful people.

Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao (b.1970), CEO, Vietjet Air


Vietnam’s first self-made billionaire and SEA’s only woman billionaire is sometimes called the VietJet Queen, after her budget airline, VietJet Air, which has 300 flights a day, operating 40% of Vietnam’s flights. The businesswoman first launched the airline in 2011, using sensational ads that feature bikini-clad flight attendants to promote its services.


Tony Fernandes (b.1964), Founder, Tune Air (AirAsia) 


Fernandes spearheaded budget air travel in Asia when he bought a debt-ridden airline for RM$1 and turned it into one of the world’s best low-cost carriers. He has won several awards, including no. 52 on “Top 100 Most Creative People in Business” by FastCompany (2011).

Read the full article in issue 132 of Asian Geographic Magazine.


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