Business Recoded … Wang Xing, the entrepreneurial leader of Meituan Dianping, the world’s most innovative company, delivering to China’s fast growth markets

July 21, 2020

In an exclusive extract from my forthcoming book Business Recoded, meet one of the most inspiring business leaders, shaking up today’s world. He embraces the opportunities of relentless change, the power of disruptive technologies, and the courage to create a better future in his own vision. In the book, I explore the stories of many of the world’s most fascinating leaders right now, and develop 49 codes that help you redefine the future of your business, and yourself.

The Leadership Code of Wang Xing

Meituan Dianping is a Chinese delivery business which Fast Company ranked as “the world’s most innovative company” last year.

Despite a series of early setbacks, Wang Xing, a 39-year-old Chinese tech entrepreneur has built what is now considered as the leading on-demand services platform, with a huge fleet of bikes that will deliver anything anywhere anytime in China.

Born in Fujian Province in 1979, Wang was the son of a wealthy businessman and factory owner. As a child, Wang was an avid reader and excelled at school, graduating from Beijing’s Tsinghua University in 2001, and going on to study for a PhD in Delaware, USA. However watching the speed at which Chinese markets were changing, and despite having almost completed his doctorate, he headed back to Beijing to enter the world of business.

Wang became known as “the copycat” because of his habit for creating Chinese versions of successful Western businesses. His initial Facebook-like social network for students did not take off, until he launched Xiaonei in 2005, which swiftly accumulated tens of thousands of users. However, lack of additional funding led him to sell it for $2 million a year later (Renren, its acquirer went on to float it for $740m).

He kept trying, launching a Twitter-like network called Fanfou, which translates as to “have you eaten”. Within two years, it had accumulated millions of users, but was shut down by the government for highlighting political issues.

In 2010 he and his wife Guo Wanhuai launched a Groupon-inspired group-buying platform Meituan. Backed by internet giant Tencent, it quickly expanded to become China’s (and the world’s) largest food delivery company.

Since then the “online to offline” platform has expanded rapidly to over 3000 Chinese cities, and after merging with Dianping in 2015, Wang’s business now brings together TripAdvisor-style restaurant reviews and hotel bookings, bike sharing, cinema tickets, deliveries of all types, and ride-hailing services.

Yoga classes. Movie tickets. Haircuts. Hot pots. Babysitting. Coupons. The business has grown into a tech giant that resembles an combination of many different apps – imagine Yelp listings of local business, OpenTable reservations, Booking flights and accommodation, home repairs, wedding planning. And Uber-style delivery.

Beyond a vast “last mile” delivery network, Wang realised that he had something even more valuable, a huge database of the new, rapidly growing, Chinese middle class. A recent McKinsey study suggested that 76% of China’s urban population will enter the middle income bracket by 2022, with household earning between $9,000 and $34,000.

Despite his personal wealth, estimated to be around $13.5 billion, Wang has earned a new nickname in China, as the “poet entrepreneur”. His many Fanfou blog posts portray a solitary figure, with a particular fondness for Haruki Murakami’s “Norwegian Wood”, along with classic Chinese poems and literature.

© Peter Fisk 2020. Business Recoded will be published in late 2020.