Cheng Wei is best known as the CEO of Didi, a company that went head to head with Uber until Uber conceded defeat and left the Chinese market. Didi recently went public and made its Wall Street debut on June 30, 2021, when it raised $4 billion. It is such a tremendous achievement for a man who was so confused about what to do with his future that he applied to be a tourist guide. Wei is now focused on Didi having self-driving cars, which Volvo will supply. There is a lot to this bespectacled entrepreneur, as you shall find out from the facts below.
1. He Was Good At Math in High School
Wei was an outstanding student in math during his high school days. He was hoping to join university and major in Information technology, but the stars did not align in his favor. When he sat for the university entrance exams, he failed to turn over the examination paper thus did not do the last three math questions. Consequently, he had to study business management at the Beijing University of Chemical Technology.
2. His First Job Was Selling Insurance Policies
Already disappointed that he did not pursue his dream career path, Wei studied business management and took up a job selling insurance during his senior year. Unfortunately, the CEO did not sell a single insurance policy, even to those closest to him, including his teachers. One of his teachers even told Wei his dog had insurance to try and get the student to sell him a policy. Whether it was the lack of internal motivation or poor sales skills, Wei’s attempt at selling insurance proved futile.
3. He Once Worked at a Foot Massage Parlor
Seeing that insurance was not the industry for him, Wei decided to shift gears and venture into the healthcare industry instead. Therefore, during a job fair at the university, the entrepreneur’s eyes could not help but be drawn to a company praising itself as a famous Chinese healthcare firm. What’s better is that they had a vacancy for an assistant to the manager position. Wei was excited about the new opportunity and applied. He was recruited and carried his luggage to report to work in Shanghai, where he stood in shock as he realized that he had been duped. The “healthcare company” was, in fact, a chain of foot massage parlors.
4. He Thinks All Job Advertisements are Scams
When Wei’s hope of working in a leading healthcare company came crashing down, his mindset about companies that advertise vacancies was affected. He now believes that firms that advertise vacancies are all scam artists; hence even at Didi, the CEO does not advocate for advertisements. However, employer brand marketing is essential for every business because it’s the only way to attract top talent. According to Talentful, employer brand marketing entails promoting your values and unique qualities that would appeal to potential employees.
5. How He Founded Didi
They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but even men can be spiteful when angry. While at Alibaba, Wei climbed the ladder to report to Wang Gang. Gang hoped that he would be promoted in the next round of promotions, but was passed over, which infuriated him. As a result, having already seen how good Wei was at his job, Gang got him and other employees to start brainstorming ideas for their next start-up. They weighed their options in different industries before settling on the transport industry. They had witnessed the success of Hailo in the UK, and Wei wanted such a firm in China; hence Didi Dache, which means “Honk Honk Call a Taxi,” was born.
6. Joining Alibaba Helped Him Discover He Was Passionate About Technology
After spending a year at the foot massage parlor, Wei knew he had to change jobs because he was not content working there. However, as he told The Harbinger China, he was not sure what career path he wanted to take. So, Wei meditated on it for a while and decided to choose something that involved the internet. He checked Alibaba’s physical address online and showed up at the Shanghai office with his resume; he got a job that earned him $225 per month.
7. He Believes Being Born in China Facilitated Him to Create an Online Business
Wei opines that timing and location affect one’s chances of being successful. He, therefore, explained that the leading companies in various industries are only successful because of the industrial revolution that started a century ago. He added that if he had not been born in China, specifically in Beijing, he most likely would have never had the opportunity to establish his online start-up. This is because, at the time of founding Didi, China was experiencing a burgeoning internet sector, as Forbes explains.
8. Travis Kalanick Offered a 40% Stake in Wei’s Company
Kalanick was interested in investing in the Chinese market, so when he toured China looking for partners and rivals, it was inevitable to meet with Wei. Wei told the former Uber CEO that he was his inspiration before demonstrating how the two were competitors in the market. Didi’s CEO predicted that Didi would overtake Uber, and of course, as an insightful entrepreneur, Kalanick wanted a 40% stake in Didi, but Wei would not accept it.
9. He Does Not Accept Defeat
When Uber waged war on Didi, Wei did not retreat or surrender. He told his employees that if they failed to beat Uber, they would die, so in May 2015, his company chose to attract more customers by giving away rides worth a billion Yuan, but Uber matched that tactic. Although the two companies were draining their funds in the rivalry, Wei focused on beating Uber; in the end, the two rivals had to come to an understanding, with Uber now owning 12.8% of Didi.
10. He Was Named Asia’s Businessman of the Year in 2016
Wei’s efforts in making Didi the largest ride-hailing platform in China did not go unnoticed thus in 2016. Forbes recognized him as Asia’s businessman of the year. He was on the cover of the Forbes Asia December 2016 issue.
Written by Allen Lee
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