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Li Jinyuan: A legendary millionaire
2005-08-30 06:44:51 XinhuaEnglish

BEIJING, Aug. 30-- No one knows exactly how much Li Jinyuan, chairman and president of Tiens Group is worth. Last year, Rupert Hoogewerf¡¦s top 100 richest list of the Chinese mainlanders ranked Li sixth with 6 billion yuan(US$739.83 million), but later on Fortune¡¦s 2004 list for China, Li was ranked 29th with US$294 million.

It may be a great honor for most Chinese to be on these lists, but it means nothing to Li.¡§Whether 200 million or 6 billion, they just mean some figures to me,¡¨ Li said with a smile. In fact, he has a much bigger ambition¢w to lead Tiens Group into Fortune 500 in the near future.

Within only 10 years, Tiens Group has become one of the most successful Chinese enterprises with products available in more than 180 countries and regions worldwide. The Tianjin-based group has 23 companies covering business activities in biotechnology, medicine and property on the mainland, as well as 104 branch companies in 91 foreign countries. In January 2005, Tiens Group astonished the world when it held its International Annual Convention in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to commend those distributors who had scored outstanding achievements during the past year with awards of 260 limousines, 54 planes, 71 yachts and 21 villas.

The success of the Tiens Group is not by chance, but mainly credited to Li¡¦s painstaking efforts, continuous innovation and farsighted strategy.

Li was born in a village of Cangzhou City in Hebei Province in June 1958. He went to school as most other kids. At 14, he quit school because the school lost its attraction to the ambitious boy. He first worked for an oil field for two years.

At 16, he began to get involved in business. He noticed that garments and recorders in the South and grain and local specialties in the North were quite cheap and the South¡¦s commodities had higher prices in the North and vice versa in the South. He accumulated his¡§first bucket of gold¡¨ with the profits from the price differences.

Later, he set up a printing company, a flour mill and a fodder factory. All brought him huge profits. In the 1980s, when 10,000 yuan was a great fortune to most Chinese, Li once had more than 20 million yuan.

In 1993, Li, 35, left his hometown and went to Tianjin to seek his fortune. After dabbling in property projects, he turned his hand to a technology-intensive project, which produced¡§all-natural high absorption calcium.¡¨ Li put a lot of effort into the new project and even lived beside the construction site for his company in Wuqing Economic Development Zone in Tianjin.

However, destiny played a joke on Li: Three months of trial runs for the new project ended in failure, with more than 20 million yuan sunk into technology and facilities, land requisition, factory buildings and other items, failed. The funds included all the properties he had acquired during the past 20 years and money borrowed from his relatives and friends. The failure made the man burst into tears for the first time in his adult life.

To extricate himself as soon as possible, he jumped into Swan Lake near the construction site on a dark night in April 1994. The cold lake water sobered him up, and caused him to ponder his life and career. Then he said to himself,¡§Only if I don¡¦t lose heart, everything can be started again.¡¨

In 1995, Li set up Tiens Group. With the help of Zheng Pengran, a famous Chinese specialist in nutrition, Li raised 4.8 million yuan to develop a new product¢w Tiens High Calcium Nutrient Powder. In the same year, the new product was mass-produced. Afterwards, Li and his Tiens colleagues introduced another seven high calcium nutrient healthcare products to the market. In 1996, the series Tiens high calcium nutrient products began marketing all over the country.

However, at that time, a debt chain pushed Li into new financial problem. He had to sell his flour mill, fodder factory and his favorite Mercedes-Benz to pay the bank loans and the staff¡¦s salaries. He was left with only 1,000 yuan for his family.

Just as a saying says¡§bad things can be turned good account,¡¨ the financial problem made Li to adjust his marketing methods to direct sales. The new market method challenged the traditional business operation and brought Li a new start. In 1997, the turnover of the Tiens Group reached 2 billion yuan.

However, the market was not mature at that time and some people took advantage of the direct sales to make illegal money. The State Council imposed a ban on multilevel marketing in 1998 to keep order in the domestic market. All direct selling enterprises, including Tiens Group, were required to shift their operating methods to sales at stores. For a while, many distributors of Tiens went to Li¡¦s office to return the products, worth 100 million yuan.

Li had to find a new way out. He thus turned his eyes to the international market. In the past 10 years, the Tiens Group has introduced its high-tech health-care products full of Chinese traditional culture to the world market through direct sales. At present, the Tiens Group has sold its products in more than 180 countries and regions.

Looking forward to the future, he said:¡§Tiens¡¦ goal is to enter the Fortune 500. In the future, the 10 overseas marketing regions of the Tiens Group will buy and merge local enterprises of healthcare products, daily chemicals and healthcare instruments. It also intends to invest in the local capital market and implement its strategy of listing in several stock markets overseas.¡¨

Since its establishment in 1995, the company has donated about 400 million yuan.

In Rupert Hoogewerf¡¦s 2004 Chinese mainland charity list, Li was ranked third with his donation of more than 66 million yuan. And later, in Fortune¡¦s charity list, Li was ranked 16th with 9.15 million yuan. Just as no one knows Li¡¦s exact fortune, no one has a clear idea of how much money he has donated.

According to Bai Ping, vice president of Tiens Group, Li is very thrifty. A millionaire, he often uses doggy bags to take leftover dishes home. However, when it comes to donations, he is very generous.

¡§When the enterprise is small, it belongs to the boss; when the enterprise grows larger, it belongs to the whole society,¡¨ Li has often repeated.

In 1996, the Tiens Group donated 420,000 yuan to the Tianjin Charity Association and Welfare Fund for the Handicapped to finance 200 poor college students. Li personally donated 120,000 yuan to the Tianjin Welfare Fund for the Handicapped. In 1997, he donated 8 million yuan to help construct Hope Schools in Tibet Autonomous Region and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

In 1998, Li and Tiens people contributed 22 million yuan in cash and products to the relief efforts for the flood-hit areas along the Yangtze, Songhua and Nengjiang rivers.

When SARS broke out in early 2003, Li led Tiens employees to donate 3 million yuan in cash and products worth 42 million yuan. After the tsunami in late December 2004, as the first donor in China, Li personally donated 80,000 yuan to the China Charity Association and Tiens associates around the world donated 4 million yuan in cash and products to relief efforts.

To do better for charity and social welfare, the group established the Tiens Meijing International Charity Foundation with Li as chairman. This year, the Tiens Group has cooperated with the Red Cross Society of China to set up the Tiens Charity Fund. On July 20, the Tiens Group started its project with 5 million yuan in donations to establish Hope Schools in West China.

This donation is just a small part of Li¡¦s charity work¢w an entrepreneur with great ambition and a humanitarian who has a benevolent heart.

¡§The Tiens Group sees charity as an undertaking. Where there is a need, there are Tiens donations, Li said.

¡§From the society, for the society, and in pursuit of health, peace and development are the eternal theme of the Tiens Group in global development.¡¨

(Source: Shenzhen Daily)

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