Penguin starts out as small idea and becomes Internet behemoth | Shanghai Daily

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October 8, 2009

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Penguin starts out as small idea and becomes Internet behemoth

MANY Chinese Internet users chat online with the help of a "penguin," or QQ, an instant communication tool that has the bird as its image logo.

Ma Huateng, 38, made all this possible in just 10 years.

A lover of star watching, Ma describes himself as an idealist-realist combination.

"I'm introverted," Ma said. "My friends believed I was too shy to find a girlfriend."

He did find a girlfriend, now his wife, through chatting online with QQ.

Born in China's southern sea-surrounded Hainan Province, Ma dreamed of becoming an astronomer.

He moved to Shenzhen in southern Guangdong Province when he was in middle school along with his parents. The booming city dragged Ma's dreams from the sky to the ground.

Ma was impressed by the slogan "Time is money, Efficiency is life" painted everywhere in the city.

It was the most famous slogan born in Shenzhen, representing China's spirit of the reform and opening-up process.

When he graduated from Shenzhen University in 1993, Ma designed a software system for stock exchanges and sold it for 50,000 yuan (US$7,324).

He then worked as an IT engineer in a company for five years.

In 1998 Ma realized the Internet was the way of the future and launched his own firm, Shenzhen Tencent Inc.

A unit of the parent, Tencent Holdings Ltd, went public on the main board of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 2004.

The country had only 3 million Internet users when the Penguin QQ showed up in 1999, but now this had risen to 300 million, Ma said.

It was in the late 1990s that China's major Websites mushroomed, including Sina.com, Sohu.com, 163.com, Tencent.com and alibaba.com.

The golden times came to an end with the global dotcom crash of 2000.

"We were under great pressure and things only got better from 2005 on," Ma said.

The IT sector was among the first batch of industries that enjoyed zero tariffs in China, meaning the Chinese Internet sector has to face challenges from international competitors.

Penguin QQ now has about 450 million active registered users, providing services of chatting, music, games and QQ currency -- an indispensable commodity in China's virtual community.

"Chinese local Websites survived in competing with foreign peers in the past10 years, but it will be the next 10 years that will decide Chinese Internet enterprises' fate," Ma said.



 

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