Richard Liu, also known as Liu Qiangdong, is the founder and chief executive officer of JD.com, China’s largest online retailer, biggest overall retailer, and the country’s highest-grossing internet company by revenue. The e-commerce platform’s current worth sits at a whopping $57.6 billion, while Liu is reported to have a net worth around $11 billion. As the first China-based company to be publicly traded on the NASDAQ floor, JD.com has opened the doors for global commerce companies to be recognized on the United States’ trading floors.
While studying sociology at the prestigious Renmin University of China in the early 1990s, Liu spent much of his time doing freelance coding work and honing his computer programming skills. Recognizing the potential limitations of his undergraduate degree in terms of business prospects, Liu worked diligently to garner the skills that would make him a viable candidate in the job market. Liu’s undergraduate studies were followed with an EMBA from the China Europe International Business School.
After graduating, Richard Liu entered the professional workforce via employment at Japan Life, a large-scale health food and health goods supplier with a burgeoning online business. Working as the company’s director of computers and director of business prepared Liu for his initial foray into entrepreneurship.
In 1998, Liu ventured out on his own, opening a small brick-and-mortar shop called “Jingdong,” which sold magneto-optical products in the Zhongguancun High-Tech Industrial Park region of Beijing. By 2003, Jingdong was thriving and had expanded to 12 stores. However, the severe SARS outbreak that year forced the citizens of China to remain housebound, threatening Jingdong’s future. Recognizing this as an opportunity to pivot the business, Liu quickly reconsidered his brick-and-mortar storefront and the possibilities for the same idea using an e-commerce model. One year later, JD.com was born. By 2005, Liu had closed the remaining brick-and-mortar Jingdong stores to focus on e-commerce. The online platform originally sold a myriad of magneto-optical products, tech devices, consumer goods, and electronics.
In March 2014, WeChat owner Tencent spent $215 million to acquire a 15 percent stake in JD.com. As part of a mutually beneficial agreement, WeChat agreed to promote JD.com prominently on its social network of nearly one billion active monthly users. In the summer of 2014, JD.com went public in the U.S. in one of the biggest NASDAQ floats of that year. Notably, JD.com was the first China-based company to be traded publicly on the NASDAQ floor. In addition to the involvement of this juggernaut peer company in JD.com’s growth, another notable shareholder for JD.com is Walmart, who recently increased its stake in JD.com to 12 percent.
In 2017, JD.com announced its investment of $397 million in Farfetch – an online luxury fashion retail platform that sells products from boutiques and brands on a global scale. The partnership between the two companies thrives on their respective reaches in China and a streamlined, aesthetically beautiful, and cohesive experience in luxury fashion.
JD.com has a small, yet powerful presence in the United States, and Richard Liu travels frequently to the U.S. for speaking engagements and business meetings with JD’s suppliers, partners, and peers. Liu has previously expressed his desire to expand JD.com’s global footprint into European markets and throughout the U.S., with a grand long-term plan to build upon the brand’s continued success. To date, the company’s growth has focused almost solely on Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Like numerous other powerful Chinese companies, JD.com is under strict control by its founder, with Liu leading the firm since 1998 and continuing to dominate its processes through special voting rights.
JD also leads the global industry, in innovative technologies for delivery, including research and manufacturing options for drone and self-automated delivery. In fact, JD utilizes the largest fleet of drones worldwide for delivery purposes. In the beginning of 2018, JD announced a new in-car delivery service in partnership with leading electric vehicle company NIO, which allows customers to have their purchases dropped off in the trunks of their cars – whether their cars are parked at home, at the office, or in a wide range of other approved areas. This is the first initiative of its kind in China. JD.com is known in the market for unrivaled delivery speeds, often with same-day or next-day delivery options available for a consumer base of over two billion people, many in remote villages previously overlooked by other e-commerce companies.
In 2018, JD Finance, a JD.com affiliate spinoff, set up the Smart City Research Institute at its headquarters in Nanjing. The institute aims to support the development of “smart city” construction through the use of artificial intelligence (AI), big data, and blockchain technologies. The blockchain-as-a-service product, rolled out months after the firm announced its plan for the project in the summer of 2018, is designed to aid enterprises that want to develop their own blockchain applications, including those for tracking supply chain information, charity donations, certificate authentication, and property assessment. The app aims to boost efficiency and streamline accounting processes by keeping invoice data updated on a distributed ledger. The application comes as an innovative new development for JD.com's Blockchain Open Platform.
By all accounts, JD.com has grown immensely thanks to continued innovation and the implementation of appropriate scaling, as well as its dedication to the integration of the newest technologies, its customer service focus, and the development of infrastructure to handle continued growth. Since its inception, Liu and his company have paid particular attention to providing exceptional customer service and investing in the platforms, technologies, and infrastructure that allow for the most seamless customer experience. Gaining trust from loyal customers since the beginning, Liu has prided himself on selling only authenticated products, and this commitment to quality has undoubtedly parlayed into the company’s ongoing success.