Alibaba’s Jack Ma says we should learn from “Forrest Gump”

Looking on the bright side.
Looking on the bright side.
Image: Reuters / Ruben Sprich
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The founder and executive chairman of the Chinese conglomerate Alibaba Group told an audience at Davos that he thinks people should study the character played by Tom Hanks in the epic 1994 romantic dramedy Forrest Gump.

“Believe what you’re doing; love it whether people like it or they don’t; be simple,” Ma told Charlie Rose. “Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you you’re gonna get.”

Ma added that in American movies, ordinary men become heroes, whereas in Chinese stories, heroes tend to die. “I worry about young people [losing] hope,” he said. “But Hollywood [has given me] a lot of inspiration.”

Ma, whose company is valued at almost $260 billion, may have a hand in reshaping those narratives, with Alibaba’s next moves including making films. His Forrest Gump-like optimism extended to his description of this venture, too, which he said he expected to be cheaper, via online distribution, than Alibaba’s traditional logistics-heavy business of supporting the buying and selling of physical goods.

“We are an e-commerce company,” he said. “We have a lot of products that need logistics. But movies, TV, these are things [for which] you don’t need a logistics system.”