Suddenly tech billionaire Jack Ma was in Marco’s greenhouse

It only started to dawn a few minutes before the announced visit that extra cars with security entered the site, commercial director Marco van Herk and managing director China Sander Smeding told RTL Z.

In the greenhouse

“A week ago we were asked if we wanted to receive a Chinese delegation,” says Van Herk. “We were happy with that, because because of corona we were unable to do that for a year and a half. We knew that they were people from an investment fund with which Jack Ma has a link, but we were told ‘no, he will definitely not come’. ”

So everything in the greenhouse in Bleiswijk was set up for a lightning visit of an hour at the end of Monday 25 October. Smeding: “These are also those visits that often do not take place in the end because, for example, the schedule extends too much.”

This time everything went according to plan and so Jack Ma was suddenly in front of them. “Six years ago I went on a Dutch trade mission to China,” says Smeding. “Then we also visited Alibaba. I had brought him a present, which I could now refer to in my presentation.”

Who is Jack Mom?

Jack Ma (57) is the big man behind e-commerce giant Alibaba. In the Netherlands, the company is best known for ‘Ali’, or AliExpress; an online store where the most diverse products can be bought very cheaply. In China, Alibaba is under the magnifying glass because it would abuse its strong market position.

The IPO of the Ant Group, subsidiary and financial branch of Alibaba, was canceled at the end of 2020 because the group would not (any longer) meet the conditions for this. Around that time, Jack Ma also disappeared from the radar for several months. It is unclear why he was silent for so long.

Enthusiasm in the show greenhouse

Ma reacted very quickly, the men say. “He was very interested anyway, asked a lot of questions. He is fluent in English, which made the conversation a lot easier than with an interpreter.”

“He was surprised that we only sell two types of flowers,” says Van Herk. “Then we explained to him that there is a lot to do with these two varieties and if you want to do this well, you have to specialize. We showed that in our show greenhouse and he was very enthusiastic about it.”

Anthura has often had high Chinese visitors. For example, the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited the company in 2000. That visit was according to official protocol and surrounded by bells and whistles.

“Now it was very different, much more accessible, and that was really very special. He continuously asked questions and wanted to know more and more. We finish our story, but it becomes much more fun when someone shows an interest in your products. The hour that before the visit, we have exceeded by far,” says Van Herk.

Famous person in China

In the Netherlands many people know Jack Ma, in China he is really a famous person. Smeding also noticed this when he informed colleagues in China of the visit. “We were not allowed to share photos at first. This morning we had a meeting and I was able to show images. Everyone kind of fell off their seats. The reactions in China then poured in.”

And what next? Will Jack Ma buy flowers from Anthura from now on? That remains to be seen, they say to the grower and breeder.

Smeding: “Sometimes an application comes in or you start a project and you wonder how exactly people came to you. Then a party like that sometimes says: yes, I visited you a few years ago. Now of course it can happen and that’s the nice thing about it.”

Flowers and plants online

Jack Ma has not only visited Anthura, but also other horticultural companies, says Van Herk. “He did a kind of agricultural, technological study tour. Maybe he will shift his focus there. On the other hand, we see that flowers and plants are also being sold more and more online and that is completely Jack Ma’s business again.”

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