The richest man in Asia who had to quit school at 15: Li Ka-shing

By Malavika Velayanikal 

This Hong Kong business magnate, investor, and philanthropist is the richest person in Asia, with a net worth of $31.9 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, as of April 16,2014.

Li Ka Shing - Photo Courtesy of
Li Ka Shing – Photo Courtesy of

He was born in Guangdong province, China. After his father’s death, he was forced to leave school to support his family before he turned 15. He found work at a plastics trading company where he laboured 16 hours a day. After years of back-breaking work, he was able to start his own company, Cheung Kong Industries.

According to a Harvard Business School article:
“From his humble beginnings in China as a teacher’s son, a refugee, and later as a salesman, Li provides a lesson in integrity and adaptability. Through hard work, and a reputation for remaining true to his internal moral compass, he was able to build a business empire that includes: banking, construction, real estate, plastics, cellular phones, satellite television, cement production, retail outlets (pharmacies and supermarkets), hotels, domestic transportation (sky train), airports, electric power, steel production, ports, and shipping.”

Today, Li’s businesses cover almost every facet of life in Hong Kong, from electricity to telecommunications, from real estate to retail, from shipping to the Internet. The Cheung Kong Group operates in 55 countries and employs over 260,000 staff worldwide.