Li Ka Shing is one of the greatest empire builders in the world. He has over 270,000 employees in over 50 countries. He is the richest man in Asia. Li was born in Chaozhou in the Guangdong Province of China, but his family had to move to Hong Kong as a result of the Sino-Japanese.
Li’s father was a primacy school teacher in his home country and soon after his arrival in Hong Kong, he died of TB. When Li was 12 years old, he quit school and started working as an apprentice in a factory which manufactured watch straps. To support his family, he had started working full time by the time he was 14. He worked in a plastic trading company. It was not until 1950 when he started his own business. His first business included manufacture of plastic toys and other everyday items. His first company was named Cheung Kong.
Li had always been hard working and he had always remained true to his moral compass. It was because of his hard work, adaptability and integrity that he has built a business empire which includes construction, banking, plastics, real estate, hotels, airports, cellular phones, cement production, satellite television, retail outlets, domestic transportation, ports, shipping, electric power and steel production.
In 1950, he founded a plastic manufacturing company after he learnt how to operate a plant. But, he had to borrow funds from his friends and family and contacts. Later he decided to supply quality plastic flowers to the world at extremely low prices. He had learned the technique of creating artificial flowers that would resemble the real thing. He hired the best technicians and invited a foreign buyer who was so impressed with the quality of the products that he placed a large order. Few years, later Li was able to make a fortune just by selling plastic flowers and became the largest supplier in Asia.
However in 1958, he was unable to renew his company’s lease and was forced to buy a new site. It was in 1967 when the opportunity to buy land at low prices arrived due to the 1967 riots. Li believed that the crisis was just temporary and the prices of land would rise again. He bought land at extremely low prices and by 1971 he was running a successful real estate development company.
Today, he is considered one of the most powerful persons in Asia. In 2001, he was named ‘Asia’s Most Powerful Man’. In 2006, he achieved “Malcolm S. Forbes Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Forbes family. In spite of his success and wealth, he lives a pretty simple lifestyle. He wears an inexpensive Seiko watch and simple black dress shoes. Having donated over $1.4 billion till date to charities, he has become one of the most generous philanthropists in Asia.