Truly, madly, deeply successful
Updated: 2011-09-28 09:33
It's clear aigo Digital Technology Co Ltd president Feng Jun has been insanely successful in the domestic electronics market.
But people thought he really was crazy when he became a vendor at Zhongguancun electronics market after graduating with an architecture degree from Tsinghua, one of the country's most prestigious universities. Peddling simply wasn't something a graduate did then.
"I am a madman," he says. "Everybody agrees. My idea was I could generate more value in Zhongguancun than in an office."
In the 1990s, the electronics market was a far cry from the "Silicon Valley of China" it's celebrated as today.
"The only thing that made it different from a farmers' market was that I brought computer cases and keyboards, rather than fruits and vegetables, on my tricycle," Feng says.
He spent all his start-up money - 200 yuan ($31) he borrowed from his mother - to buy the bike.
Customer confidence was an issue Feng tackled by selling his keyboards for a 5 yuan profit, while others took 50 yuan.
"The other vendors thought it was strange to sell the keyboards for so little," he recalls.
"But I only needed a tricycle for deliveries and was happy with 5 yuan."
This is how he earned the nickname Feng Wukuai. (Wukuai means 5 yuan in Mandarin.)
He devised product demonstrations in which he would sprinkle water over the keyboards and bash them on the ground. When people saw how robust they were, they rushed to buy them.
"I could sell 600 a day," he says.
In early September, the 42-year-old entrepreneur unveiled the aigo Cloud service, enabling users to access personal data from any digital cloud device, including mobile phones, computers and tablets. The service operates on the iOS, Android and Windows systems.
It's China's answer to Apple Inc's iCloud service, which was introduced by former CEO Steve Jobs three months ago and will be available soon.
"Jobs is a real master, and I respect him very much," says Feng, who dresses in Sun Yat-sen uniforms. "I'm proud we launched the service before Apple."
Some netizens are skeptical of the service's quality and mock Feng on Sina Weibo's micro blog, the Chinese version of Twitter.
"I understand their suspicion that we're not competent," Feng says.
"But it's time Chinese became self-confident. Time will tell."
Feng created aigo in 1997 to brand the U discs, mp3 players, digital photo frames and mobile phones his Huaqi Information Digital Techonology Co Ltd produced, and changed the company's name to aigo in 2010.
"The reason I succeeded so quickly is I put my heart and soul into research and development, " he says.
He recalls making the risky move to introduce aigo's digital camera in 2005. The decision was made after fierce debate, because China's market was dominated by Japanese brands.
"The Japanese brands slashed their prices the instant our camera went on sale to drive me out of the market," he says.
"But I was doing the right thing. So, why would I quit?"
Camera sales are stable but aigo is still losing money because of high R&D costs. Feng says he lost 3 million yuan last month.
"But I'm happy I provide cheaper cameras for Chinese," he says.
"Other aigo products fill the profit gap."
Feng posted on his Weibo in September 2010 that he would donate all of his money to charity before his death.
"My son said his classmate asked him why he studied so hard if he was going to inherit his father's wealth," he recalls.
"I was shocked and worried. As long as my son is capable, he doesn't need my money."
Although Zhongguancun is where his legacy began, he says he has no strong opinion about the news the government plans to shut down half the market's shops by yearend.
"Zhongguancun's competition is like the Olympic Games'," he says.
"Quality counts. Winners and losers are both heroes. But cheating is never allowed. It's survival of the fittest."