Welcome to the world of Li Ka Shing, one of Asia’s richest and most influential businessmen. He currently controls two conglomerates, Hutchinson Whampoa and Cheung Kong Holdings. He is so rich that his business interest spans 90 countries and one of his companies account for 11.5% of Hong Kong’s stock market value. He’s among the richest school drop out billionaires in the world and one of the world’s most respected business men in the world.

Li Ka Shing was born in Chaozhou, China in 1928. In 1940 his family fled to Hong Kong as the Japanese invaded China. Li Ka Shing dropped out of school at the age of 15 and started out by selling watch bands. From there, he became a wholesale salesman at the age of 17, and moved on to become a general manager at the young age of 19. He founded a plastics manufacturing company in Hong Kong in 1949 with borrowed capital from family and friends. He made a small fortune selling plastic combs and soap boxes. Recalling his experience back then, he said;

The first year, I didn’t have much capital so I did everything myself. I had to keep my overhead low by learning everything about running a business, from accounting to fixing the gears of my equipment. I really started from scratch.” – Li Ka Shing

To keep his business afloat, Li Ka Shing became an avid reader of business news and publications. He did this to keep up with current events and industrial trends. He took notice of the growing wealth of the West and this prompted him to begin manufacturing high quality plastic flowers at cheap prices.

Being an avid learner, he travelled throughout Europe to learn more about the different techniques for mixing colors with plastics to create life-like flowers. Upon return from his trip, Li Ka Shing restructured his shop and hired all the best technicians he could find. Business took off when one foreign buyer placed a particularly large order.

In a short span of years, Li Ka Shing grew to become the largest supplier of plastic flowers in Asia. In 1958, his interests moved to real estate and he began buying up properties. He was often referred to as a diligent developer because he believes in doing his homework before closing any deal.

It was during the Cultural Revolution of 1967 that Li Ka Shing made one of his biggest moves. Riots were on and many people fled Hong Kong. Property prices dropped to rock bottom. While others scrambled to sell what they had left, Li Ka Shing thought the crisis was just temporary, and started buying land at bargain prices. He obeyed the rule of one of my mentors that says:

The best time to buy is when blood is flowing in the streets.” – John D. Rockefeller

In 1971, Li Ka Shing founded Cheung Kong Real Estate Company. The Cheung Kong Real Estate Company eventually acquired his current flagship company, Hutchison Whampoa Limited from HSBC in 1979. This single investment made Li Ka Shing the largest container terminal operator in the world.

 How Li Ka Shing became Asia’s Most Influential Business Man

Li Ka Shing later acquired Hong Kong Electric Holdings Limited in 1985. Li Ka Shing has business interests spanning many industries in more than 90 countries. Today, Hutchison Whampoa is one of the largest conglomerates in Hong Kong, with operations that span over fifty countries and more than 220,000 staff worldwide.

The largest branch of his business is in container port facilities, including ports in China, Hong Kong, Panama, Rotterdam, and Bahamas. His business controls 12% of all container port capacity in the world. Li Ka Shing also has extensive investments in telecommunications in Asia-Pacific and Europe. He has also personally invested in a number of other successful ventures, such as Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, and Husky Energy in Alberta, Canada.

As one of the most powerful figures in Asia, Li Ka Shing was named Asia’s Most Powerful Man by Asia week in 2000. Li Ka Shing has also donated more than $450 million to educational causes and medical care such as nursing homes and day-care canters for the elderly. His donations in 1981 resulted in the founding of Shantou University, and after the Indian Ocean Earthquake disaster in 2004; he reportedly donated a total of $3 million. Li has reportedly given away more than $1.4billion to charity.

In 2008, Forbes magazine ranked him as the 19th richest person in the world with an estimated net worth of $12.4 billion. In spite of his wealth, Li Ka Shing has a reputation for living a humble lifestyle, and is known as the billionaire who wears cheap shoes and old watches.