We have curated below a list of some of the richest businessmen and entrepreneurs in Asia for their foresight, sheer grit and innovation. While we have named other billionaire businessmen and entrepreneurs from Asia in another list, this is a list of mostly young and entirely self-made billionaires. Alongside our independent research we are grateful to Celebrity Net Worth and Forbes for helping us compile this list.
(柳井 正, Yanai Tadashi, born 7 February 1949 in Ube, born in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan)
Did you know that Uniqlo with a “q” was a typing mistake and was supposed to be “g” instead. The company decided to keep the “q” and today, scores of people the world over are fans of its casual, yet stylish and innovative clothing.
Tadashi Yanai, a Japanese businessman, is the founder and president of Fast Retailing, the parent company of Uniqlo. Tadashi is ranked in 2020 by Forbes to be the world’s 41st richest with an estimated net worth of US$24.5 billion. Tadashi Yanai is the richest businessman in Japan.
Tadashi Yanai graduated from Waseda University of Japan in 1971 with a degree in economics and political science. His dad had a tailor shop which he joined after a short stint selling kitchenware and men’s clothing in a JUSCO supermarket. The first Uniqlo store was opened in Hiroshima in 1984, and today, Uniqlo has over 1500 stores worldwide, selling affordable and high-quality casual but stylish fashion wear. One of Uniqlo’s key strengths, apart from quick turnaround in offering new styles every few weeks, is its commitment to fabric innovation, producing high quality fabric and stylish designs.
Tadashi Yanai is a humble man despite his enormous wealth. He has published two books, whose titles are self-illuminating of the man’s philosophy in life: One Win, Nine Losses published in 1991 and Throw Away Your Success in a Day published in 2009.
(born April 1983 in Longyan, Fujian Province China)
If you are unfamiliar with the name Ahang Yiming or Yiming Zhang, you should be more than familiar with Tik Tok or ByteDance.
Zhang is a Chinese internet entrepreneur who founded ByteDance He founded in 2012 after noticing in early 2010 that people in China were using their smartphones as their only device for everything from socialising, obtaining their daily news to simpler computing tasks.
Zhang developed Toutiao, a news aggregator using artificial intelligence which attracted more than 10 million users daily in the first two years of its launch. Sequoia Capital which initially declined investment into the start-up came back and lead a US$100 million investment and in 2014.
In September of 2015, Tik Tok, the hugely popular video sharing platform was launched. As of 2020, there are over 1 billion monthly users, making ByteDance one of the most valuable startups in the world with a valuation of about US$75 billion.
For Zhang, this translated into a personal fortune of some US$22 billion, making him one of the top ten richest person in China.
Unfortunately, as of 2020, the Trump administration, in an ever growing spat with China over trade and other issues, has threatened a ban of Tik Tok from the United States owing to its alleged links to the Chinese Communist Party, forcing it to be disposed to American owners. ByteDance as at the time of writing is in talks with a few potential purchasers, including Microsoft. A sell-down while it would certainly increase Zhang’s networth, is another casualty of the cold war between the US and China.
(born 1986 in Chongqing, China)
Wu Jihan is the co-founder and until 2019, the co-CEO of Bitmain Technologies, China’s largest cryptocurrency mining-chip company. The mining-chip giant specialises in selling ASIC-chip miners.
Wu worked as a financial analyst for a private equity firm after college and in May 2011, he discovered bitcoin. Help from family and friends raised about 100 thousand yuan for him to start Babite, China’s first bitcoin community site, with fellow bitcoin enthusiast, Chang Jia.
In 2012, Wu invested in Kaomao (烤猫), a bitcoing mining hardware startup. Initially successful, Kaomao ran into technical difficulties and exited the business, and Wu lost his investment. Having learnt the importance of technical expertise, he courted Micree Zhan, a microelectronics engineer and the two went on to found Bitman. Bitman was successful until it hit a downturn in 2014. In 2015, the company developed Antminer S5, a follow-on from its previous Antminer S1, which became the best-selling cryto-currency mining equipment around the time when bitcoin prices recovered. Bitman became the world’s largest computer chip company for bitcoin mining and reported sales of some US$2.5 billion in 2017. Wu owned 20% of Bitman shares and Micree Zhan, 36%.
Even though Bitman was reporting better than expected profits as of 2020, there has been complaints of high failure rate of its Bitman S17/T17 Antimer rig, over and above a boardroom struggle between Wu and Zhan.
In 2019, Wu stepped down as co-CEO of Bitmain and founded Matrixport, a financial services company for cryptocurrencies. To circumvent China’s ban on cryptocurrency trading, the company is based in Singapore.Wu is reportedly worth US$1.8 billion as of 2020.
Ma Yun or Jack Ma
(born 1964 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China)
Did you know that Jack was a name given by tourist to Jack Ma when he was showing tourists around his native Hangzhou in China trying to practise his English!
Yes, Jack Ma of Alibaba wasn’t always the internet savvy billionaire we associate him with. In fact, it wasn’t until 1994 that he first heard of the internet. Before that he had graduated with a degree in English from the Hangzhou Normal University, and upon graduation was rejected for so many job applications that reportedly, even KFC rejected him.
In 1995, he went to the United States with friends, and when he could find much information about China on the internet, he started a website called chinapages.com which made within the first three years of launch about US$800,000. He then began building websites with the help of friends in the US for Chinese companies.
After a short stint heading up the China International Electronic Commerce Center, a department of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation of China, he returned to his native Hangzhou in 1999 to start Alibaba with a group of friends.
From 1999 to early 2000, Ma’s Alibaba received a total of US$25 million in foreign investment for the purpose of improving the Chinese e-commerce market. This led rapidly to the founding in 2003 of Taobao Marketplace, Alipay, Ali Mama and Lynx. Shortly after Taobao gained traction as an ecommerce platform, eBay tried to purchase the company, but Ma went with Jerry Yang of Yahoo for a $1 billion investment. In 2014, Alibaba launched on the New York exchange, raising $25 billion in an initial public offering.Ma’s personal net worth as of 2020 is estimated to be some US$43 billion.
(born 1983, Chandigarh, State of Punjab, India)
Binny Bansal was a computer science engineering student together with his business partner Sachin Bansal (coincidental same family name, but no relation of his) at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. After graduation, both Binny and Sachin worked for Amazon for a couple of years before venturing to form his ecommerce site Flipkart in 2007 with Sachin. Apparently, they had wanted to establish a search engine, modelled after Google, but realised that the ecommerce market was relatively small in India, and that an ecommerce company would be a better proposition. The two Bansals pooled together their savings totalling S$6,000 and operated Flipkart from their apartment. Flipkart sold mainly books online and in just four years, Flipkart began making 15 sales per minute. In an interview in 2011, Binny was quoted as saying “We didn’t draw our salaries for almost a year and half”.
And it was a long hard road till 2018 when Walmart acquired 77% of Flipkart for $16 billion in what was at the time, the world’s biggest deal for an internet firm. Binny Bansal’s 5.5% stake in Flipkart was valued at $1 billion after the acquisition. Binny who was Group CEO from 2017 to 2018 resigned from Flipkart in November 2018 after allegations of personal misconduct.
Today, Bansal, who retains a small stake in Flipkart, now mentors startups from Singapore through his firm xto10x Technologies. He’s also an anchor investor in venture firm 021 Capital, which is focused on investing in biotechnology, agritech, and the internet. As of 2020, Forbes estimated Binny Bansal’s net worth to be $1.2 billion.
(born in 1964 in Chongqing)
Wa Yajun was working as a journalist and editor for the China Shirong News Agency which was owned by the Construction Bureau of the Chongqing Provincial government before she started her property firm Longfor Properties.
Wu was born into an ordinary family. She graduated from the Northwestern Polytechnical University in 1984 and worked at the Qianwei Meter Factory for about four years after graduation.
In 1995, Wu and her former husband, business Cai Kui, started Longfor Properties, which was formerly known as Chongqing Zhongjianke Real Estate Co. Ltd with an initial capital of 10 million yuan (approx. $1.7 million). Her years as a journalist for China Shirong proved fortuitous as she made a lot of contacts there with government officers and other businessmen in the construction industry. Longfor grew quite rapidly expanding from her native Chongqing to major first and second tier cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Dalian.
Longfor Properties was listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 2009 with notable investors like Ping An Insurance and Singapore’s sovereign fund like Temasek Holdings.Wu’s wealth is managed by Wu Capital, which has invested in companies like Uber and Evernote. As of 2020, this once journalist has a personal fortune of over $14 billion.
(born in 1980 in China)
While Alibaba may be better known to most in the ecommerce space, Pinduoduo is actually right behind Alibaba with close to 600 million users and recorded 1 trillion yuan in Gross Merchandise Value in under five years since its launch in 2015. And the man behind this company that has gone from launch to sales of over $4 billion is Colin Huang.
Huang graduated from Zhejiang University and gained a master’s in computer science from the University of Wisconsin.
Pinduoduo is the fastest growing tech company in the world. Launched in 2015, and changing its business strategy only in Q1 of 2017, the company ended its online direct sales model of acquiring fresh produce and other perishables from suppliers to sell to consumers, and transitioned to purely providing online marketplace services to third-party merchants. This change marked the start of explosive growth for Pinduoduo and what took Alibaba 10 years to reach the same stage, it took Pinduoduo only 5 short years.
Before starting Pinduoduo, Huang was an intern for Google, and then started working as an engineer in 2004. He also interned at Microsoft. Since Pinduoduo’s IPO in July 2018 on NASDAQ, Huang’s 47% stake was valued at $14 billion, making him the 13th richest person in China. As of July 2nd 2020, it is reported from a June 30 filing that Colin Huang has cut his stake down to 29.4% from 43.3%. He has also stepped down as CEO but will continue as Chairman. His personal wealth is estimated as of 2020 at $13.8 billion.
(born November 1975, Japan)
Maezawa is the brainchild behind Start Today, which owns the retail clothing website Zozotown. Start Today was established in 1998, and six years later, became a publicly traded company on the “Mothers” Index of the Tokyo Stock Exchange. By 2000, Start Today had moved to an online platform and began selling clothing. In 2012, Start Today was listed in the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange, which is equivalent to a mainboard listing.
Start Today is famous in Japan for its custom-fit apparel brand ZOZO and at-home measurement system, the ZOZOSUIT, launched in 2018 which is available in over 70 countries.
Before Start Today, Maezawa was the drummer of a band called Switch Style. He moved to the US with a girlfriend, and when he returned, he sold his CDs and records collections he had while living in the United States through the mail.
Maezawa resigned from ZoZo in September 2019 after selling a stake of 50.1% in the company to Softbank for US$3.7 billion (400 billion Yen). He also sold 30% of his personal stake in ZoZo to Yahoo Japan.
In 2018, he made headlines in the news as the first commercial passenger to be attempting a flyby around the Moon onboard a SpaceX Starship.
Maezawa is also a keen art collector, having founded the Tokyo-based Contemporary Art Foundation in 2012 to support young contemporary artists. The Contemporary Art Foundation currently hosts collection shows twice a year. As of 2020, Yusaku Maezawa is estimated to be worth $2.1 billion.
Ma Huateng or Pony Ma
(born in 1971 in Shantou Guangdong Province, China)
Even if you have not heard of Pony Ma, you are probably a user of Wechat. Valued at over $40 billion, the 47-year-old magnate chairs Chinese Internet giant Tencent Holdings. Having co-founded the business with 4 others, the technology entrepreneur keeps a low profile when compared to his compatriot Jack Ma – the executive chairman of one of the world’s largest e-commerce businesses, Alibaba Group.
Born into a working-class family, his father is a port manager. Pony himself attended Shenzhen University and graduated in 1993 with a degree in computer science.
His first job was with China Motion Telecom Development, a supplier of telecommunications services and products, where he was in charge of developing software for pagers. He reportedly earned $176 per month at the time. Ma founded Tencent in1998 with four classmates. Tencent went on to develop its own instant messaging service called OICQ with a Chinese interface. OICQ was similar to an Israeli company and similar product called ICQ. AOL acquired OICQ in 1998 but that led to AOL filing for arbitration against Tencent for infringement of ICQ’s trademarks.
Since then, Tencent released its own portal (QQ.com) and made forays into the online games market. By 2004, Tencent became the largest Chinese instant messaging service (holding 74 percent of the market). Ma listed Tencent on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 2004 itself. After the company raised $200 million in the IPO, Ma quickly became one of the richest people in China’s telecom industry.
Today, Tencent is Asia’s most valuable company, and is one of the largest Internet and technology companies, and the biggest investment, gaming and entertainment conglomerates in the world. The company develops China’s biggest mobile instant messaging service, WeChat and its subsidiaries provide media, entertainment, payment systems, internet-related services, and online advertising services services, both in China and globally. As of 2020, Pony Ma has accumulated a personal wealth of some $40 billion.
Vijay Shekhar Sharma
(born 1978 in India)
Sharma is popularly known as the man who changed the way India pays. He is the founder of Paytm, a mobile payments service and financial technological company based in Noida, Uttar Pradesh. Paytm is reportedly valued at about $2.6 billion.
Sharma earned a bachelor’s degree in Electronics & Communication Engineering from Delhi College of Engineering. In 1997, while in college, he started the website indiasite.net, and sold it two years later for $1 million.
In 2000 he started one97 Communications offering mobile content including news, cricket scores, ringtones, jokes and exam results. One97 is the parent company of Paytm, which was launched in 2010. Sharma made headlines in 2018 when he got Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway to invest $300 million in his startup. In 2015, he convinced Jack Ma to invest in Paytm Mall, the e-commerce arm of Paytm.
In 2017, Sharma appeared in Forbes’ World Billionaire’s List, the youngest Indian on the list.
Sharma has a personal fortune of approximately $2.4 billion as of 2020.