July 27, 2021

Profile: Who is Zhou Qunfei, the billionaire super-entrepreneur

Sorority, fights and blows of brilliance. Our journalist, Juliette Debruxelles looks back at the fate of women who changed the face of the world … Who was Zhou Qunfei?

Lhis daughter weighs several billion euros and is classified among the “super entrepreneurs”, that is to say the richest women in China (among the 50 richest women in the world, there are about thirty Chinese). It’s heavy. Especially that at birth, let’s say that she was not programmed for fortune. “I had to constantly think about how I was going to find my next meal,” she recently told CNBC. No fairy tale: she was not saved from poverty by a wealthy uncle who would have bequeathed her his fortune (like the vast majority of billionaire women who are most of the time heiresses).

Zhou Qunfei made herself by herself, by working, believing in herself, not counting her hours of sleep. Lens Technology, the company she created, supplies almost half of the screens of smartphones produced on earth (40% In the last news).

It’s huge and, since 2003, it has made her an example for her 90,000 employees and workers. The working conditions of the people it employs? Let’s say not worse than those of other sectors of hyperconsumerism. Conditions she knows well, since before, she was the assembly-line worker. In her previous life of misery, she made watch windows for a dollar an hour. A situation that she does not swallow and which pushes her to submit her resignation to her boss. Blown away by the approach (when you survive at this point, in general, you don’t quit) and by the quality of her letter, her boss refuses to let her go and offers her a promotion. She will eventually marry him. It is the beginning of the end of the nightmare for the one who had lost her mother at 5 years old and imagined several times the worst for her future.

A former soldier and almost blind father who made bamboo baskets and repaired bicycles, pigs and ducks in the garden to provide additional income for the family, brothers and sisters who did not go to school after primary school… That , that was the setting. At 16, she left home and moved to “special economic zone“From Shenzhen (a test zone devised by Deng Xiaoping to locally manufacture products sold to foreign markets. The start of”Made in China», What). She began to work at the factory, while taking accounting and plic-ploc computer courses at the University of Shenzhen. At 20, she was hired at BielCrystal and ran out of 8am to midnight polishing dials. Until she decides enough is enough and creates her own story.

In 1993, she was 22 years old, with $ 3,000 in savings in her pocket, and founded her first company. In a three-bedroom apartment, she works with members of her family and supplies watch glasses that she claims to be of good quality. She crashes several times. Eleven failures. Eleven boxes launched and as many bankruptcies. Moments of intense despair, like that day when, standing on the edge of a Hong Kong station platform, she thinks of throwing herself under the train to stop everything. “I thought that by leaving, all the troubles would go away too.A phone call from her daughter brings her out of this state of despair.: «I realized that for my family and for my employees, I couldn’t give up. I had to continue.»

So, she prospected, kept pace and became a recognized supplier to the watchmaking industry. In 2003, Motorola, an American giant, sent him this message: «Would you know how to make a glass screen for a mobile phone? Just answer yes or no. If so, we’ll help you get organized technically.»Absolute cardboard box. The Motorola Razr V3, the first flip phone in history, is selling like hot cakes. And this success obviously resonates with Zhou Qunfei. It baptizes its box Lens Technology and offers itself, a few years later, the title of supplier of screens of the first Apple iPhones. Without counting Nokia, Samsung, Huawei …

We imagine that she is having a huge party, saving her family from poverty, looking at herself in the mirror, whispering to herself that she is a winner … But in reality, we don’t know. Zhou Qunfei is not the decadent diva type who would take advantage of her status to afford solid gold toilets. In the few photos where she appears, we see a little bit of a woman without make-up or designer clothes. No extravagance.

Not even a family twerk when the box went public in March 2015? Not even. However, with the click of a trader’s tongue, his personal fortune increases by 450%. A divorce and a new husband (also met at the factory, since he’s not the type to go hunting for guys in a club in Ibiza), houses and apartments estimated at $ 27 million, a passion for climbing and table tennis. A certain vision of boredom, seen from here. His secret: «The desire to learn.There again, nothing to hit the bars. The girl would have replied “The desire to make me as much cash as possible to send a big raised finger to fate»That we would have found it funnier and healthier. She would have donated her fortune to an association fighting against eczema or publicly denounced the precarious working conditions of the workers in the factories of her country that would have been applauded. But Zhou Qunfei cannot be everywhere. When, at 49, you run more than 30 factories, you have average-average time to settle down.

Proposition: to create an empire ourselves and give Zhou Qunfei lessons of flambé …

His 3 tips for success

  • Be well prepared, plan plans B.
  • Keep learning, to follow progress and developments.
  • Never give up, always persevere. Believe it, especially in the hard times.

To read

« Factory Girl » de Leslie T. Chang. A reference work about, in particular, workers who leave their villages to join
the labor reserve of large Chinese factories, creating a real transformation of society.

Buy the Factory Girl book