It wasn’t the best of times for Chinese e-commerce and tech solutions company JD.com in 2018, and its board of directors and shareholders had been growing concerned about cash flow. But as the first quarter of 2019 came to a close, the news was very good as earnings reported at that point came in at just over 121 billion Yuan, a mark that beat original projections. Company shares on the NASDAQ were also ahead of where experts had projected them to be as they traded at 33 cents per share. These earnings could be a testament to CEO Richard Liu Quingdong finally seeing a return on his investments committed to drone technology, artificial intelligence and other robotics. Tencent Holdings, the private equity firm that’s been the main source of capital for JD also renewed their commitment to Liu’s company, and the new deal they have with JD allows them to access Tencent’s WeChat platform among other services.
So who is the man behind the rise of JD.com? Liu Quingdong, who is also referred to as Richard Liu was one of China’s first visionaries for a retail market dominated by e-commerce, and his company was born out of several earlier failures that he learned great lessons from. As a young man, Liu learned about hard work watching his parents run a coal shipping business, and while attending the Renmin University in Beijing, he decided to start one of his own. He opened a restaurant that he had big plans for, but some tough economic times in China at the time forced him to close it early. But Liu didn’t give up on the ide of starting his own business again, and after he completed his bachelor’s degree and spent two years in computer programming, the opportunity once again presented itself. This time Liu was much more successful in selling electronics and hardware components in a new business he began, though it later grew its inventory from electronic parts to other consumer goods.
Liu had originally named his company Jingdong, but then another setback happened that brought about its name change. In 2003, the SARS epidemic became rampant in China, and the lost business forced Liu to close many of his stores up. But this turned out to be a good thing in the long run because Liu now started exploring ways to build his business online, and in the coming years most of the sales began coming through the website. It was then that he decided to rebrand Jingdong as JD.com and focus almost completely on e-commerce.
Richard Liu kept the company privately owned for many years, but then he received an offer from Tencent Holdings to buy some of the shares because JD was seen as a better alternative to Alibaba, another e-commerce company that Tencent often has accused of using deceptive practices and carrying out illegal operations. In 2015, JD.com had its first IPO and became publicly traded. Liu has continued to serve as CEO of the company though he is no longer the majority shareholder. The primary technology the company has invested in is drone delivery, and it’s been Liu’s goal to make product delivery available for customers even in the most remote corners of the world. But the company has also started bringing in robot shopping carts in some of China’s grocery stores, and just this last year they rolled out a new AI powered credit check program for various consumer loans and rentals. Liu often speaks at various business and economic summits including last year’s World Economic Forum.