Chinese Billionaire: The King of Bottled Water of China Usurps Mukesh Ambani as Asia’s Richest Man: Who is Zhong Shanshan?

Zhong Shanshan.

Zhong Shanshan. | Photo credit: Twitter

Highlights

  • After graduating from college, Zhong worked in a local newspaper for five years where he mainly covered the pace of entrepreneurship.
  • Zhong’s first real break came in 1993 when he developed a nutritional supplement that became extremely popular in China.
  • Unlike many other billionaires on the mainland, Zhong has sought to stay away from corporations or political groups.

China’s self-styled bottled water king Zhong Shanshan has reportedly replaced Mukesh Ambani in India as Asia’s richest man following a net worth boost for the former in 2020. $ 77.8 billion. While the COVID-19 pandemic has threatened the livelihoods of millions of people around the world, the same cannot be said for Zhong who added $ 6.9 billion to its value this year.

While 2020 has turned out to be an exceptional year for the Chinese billionaire, his is a life story not without dramatic peaks and valleys. Zhong was born into a wealthy family in 1954 in the city of Hangzhou, in eastern China.

He dropped out of school in fifth grade amid Mao Zedong’s chaotic Cultural Revolution that tragically resulted in the deaths of his parents. As a teenager, Zhong worked as an apprentice with several carpenters and masons, but by age 23 he had secured a place at Zhejiang Radio and Television University. After graduating, Zhong worked at a local newspaper for five years where he mainly covered the pace of entrepreneurship.

It was during this period that Zhong realized the abundant business opportunities present in the country. He quickly quit his job and moved to Hainan Island in southern China, known for its pro-market policies. During the 1990s, Zhong started a series of diverse businesses that included planting mushrooms, running a newspaper, and distributing bottled water. But his first real break came in 1993 when he developed a nutritional supplement that became extremely popular in China. At the time, he also started selling pills used to treat erectile dysfunction, which then went through regulatory review.

In 1996, he pivoted again, founding a bottled water company that would later be renamed Nongfu Spring. Thanks to remarkably successful marketing and advertising campaigns that showcased its product as containing natural minerals, Nongfu Spring found rapid success, and in 2000 the company branched out into the production of tea, energy drinks , fruit juice, flavored water and coffee.

In April of this year, Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy – a company that produces hepatitis vaccines and kits and in which Zhong has a controlling stake – went public, adding billions to his net worth. And in September, Nongfu Spring launched a $ 1.1 billion IPO on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, which effectively turned Zhong into China’s third richest person overnight.

Zhong has been dubbed “Lone Wolf” by Chinese media because of his reluctance to make public statements or appearances. Unlike many other billionaires on the mainland, Zhong has also sought to stay away from corporations or political groups. “I’m a lonely person, and I don’t care what my colleagues do or think,” he told Chinese press.

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