Who is Zhong Shanshan? King of Bottled Water Dethrones Mukesh Ambani as Asia's Richest Person

Shanshan, founder of Nongfu Spring, China's largest bottled water company, also owns Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy Enterprise Co, which is developing a Covid-19 vaccine.

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India's Reliance Industries Ltd's Chairman Mukesh Ambani is no longer the richest person of Asia after losing the coveted title to Zhong Shanshan, founder of Nongfu Spring, China's largest bottled water company. Shanshan became 11th richest person of the world after his net worth jumped by $70.9 billion this year to $77.8 billion.

Ambani had earlier lost his position in the top 10 richest person in the world. He now holds the 12th position on the Bloomberg Billionaire Index, with Shanshan leading him marginally. That said, Shanshan is one of the least talked about billionaires in the world given his nature of maintaining a low profile among his contemporaries.

Meteoric Rise

Zhong Shanshan
Zhong Shanshan YouTube Grab

Shanshan, 66, has had an interesting career but what is more envious is that he made it to the list of the richest men in the world within a very short span of time given that he was a little known name outside China till a year back. However, he has fought all the way alone.

After an improbable career in journalism, mushroom farming and health care, he took to the business of manufacturing bottled water. Within a short time he became a name to reckon with and today holds the honor of the richest man in Asia, leaving behind the likes of Alibaba's Jack Ma.

Interestingly, Shanshan isn't involved in politics nor has any business interests entwined with rich business families such as property tycoons. This has earned him the title of 'Lone Wolf' in China's business fraternity and makes him a revered figure.

Instead, he owes his success to two very different business propositions. He first took Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy Enterprise Co. public in April. However, it was his next move that turned his fortunes completely. A few months later his he took Nongfu Spring Co, the bottled water company that went public and since his debut has gone on to become the hottest stock at the Hong Kong bourse. The company's shares have soared over 155 percent since its debut, while Wantai's shares have jumped more than 2,000 percent.

Hard Work Pays

Mukesh Ambani
Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) Chairman Mukesh Ambani. (File Photo: IANS) IANS

Shanshan has been somewhat lucky since both his companies made their stock market debut. Ambani too has had a great year wherein in Reliance established itself as technology and e-commerce titan. However, the company's shares somewhat stalled as Reliance Industries comes under increasing pressure to deliver on the digital transformation promised by Ambani.

Alibaba Group founder and executive chairman Jack Ma. IANS

On the other hand, Nongfu's stocks hit a high this week after analysts at Citigroup said the company has solidified its market dominance and enjoys ample cash flow. Wantai, his other company, is also developing a Covid-19 vaccine and if it succeeds, Shanshan net wealth is only going to soar from here.

At the same time, the tech tumble amid increased government scrutiny in China has also gone in favor of Shanshan. Ma till sometime back was the richest Asian, till Ambani took over earlier this year. Ma's net wealth has declined to $51.2 billion from $61.7 billion in October, while Shanshan's has gone up to $77.8 billion.