From Rags to Riches: Li Ka Shing
on Sunday May 28th, 2017, By Rishi Upadhyaya

There was once a 14 year old boy whose father had just died of tuberculosis. To provide for his family, he was forced to abandon his education and work at a plastics factory for 16 hours a day. The family was so poor that to afford a meal he had to sell his dead father’s clothes.

Sounds terrible, right? Well if it makes you feel any better this boy is now one of the most influential businessman of the world and is the richest man of Asia. He is none other than the honorable Li-Ka Shing. Many of us might not have heard about him but his story of rags to riches is enough to inspire us of how we should be grateful for everything.

His journey to become a multi billionaire tycoon started with the Japanese invasion of Southern China during the 1940s. Because of this invasion his family was forced to flee to Hong Kong. But soon disaster struck as his father was diagnosed with tuberculosis and shortly after succumbed to it when Li was just 14 years old.

Forced to drop out of school to provide for his family, Li worked 16 hours a day at a Plastics factory. Being the sole earner of the family he sent almost 90% of his pay to his mother. In 1950, Li now 22 years old, left his job and invested all his earnings to open his own company that made plastic toys. He named the company as Cheung Kong. However, he sensed an increase in demand of plastic flowers in Italy and soon begin to manufacture plastic flowers. Perhaps his perception on identifying early trends in the market made Li Ka Shing the man he is now. Fast forward to the present and Cheung Kong is one of the largest real estate investment companies in the world.

How did a company making plastic flowers turn to a real estate company, you ask?

Well, during the early 1970s Hong Kong was in a state of civil unrest due to the Maoist led riots and bombings. Because of this, property rates had fallen to a new low. Li, sensing an opportunity, started buying all the pieces of warehouse and real estate with every cent that he saved. Soon, when the civil unrest was tackled, Li started to make a killing in the real estate business. 

After that, in 1979 he acquired a controlling stake in a company called Hutchison Whampoa. Hutchison Whampoa was a company which owned shipyards, docks, vast parcels of retail space and much more, mainly throughout Hong Kong. The HSBC had a huge chunk of stake in this company. However it was struggling since the past few years and Li sensing an opportunity was smartly able to convince the HSBC to sell them their stake in the Hutchinson Whampoa at half the book value! Over the next decade, Li successfully managed to turn Hutchison Whampoa around and expand its empire throughout the world. Today, Hutchison Whampoa is one of the most valuable companies in the world with annual revenues of over $54 billion.

Afterwards there was no stopping Li Ka Shing. The small town factory worker was now a multi billionaire tycoon! He began investing in all the promising properties and companies he could lay his hands on. He even invested in Facebook, Skype, Spotify during their early years.

However, Li has not forgotten his humble roots and till date wears a simple black shoe and an inexpensive Seiko wristwatch. His business ethics have made him a respectful figure in the world. His ‘Yes’ is as good as a promise. He will deliver a promise even if it means less profit for him. He still lives in his home that he brought more than 50 years ago. He is also regarded as one of the Asia’s most generous philanthropists, donating over 2.5 billion USD to charity. Because of his keen and tactical business mind, Li is also referred to as “Superman” of business in Hong Kong! Now, at the ripe age of 88 years old, Li is currently the richest man of Asia with an estimated net worth of USD 31.3 billion. He sure has come a long way from working as a factory worker!

“If you don’t have a big heart, you will not succed” – Li Ka Shing


Rishi Upadhyaya

Hail sithis!

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