Name: Nian Guangjiu
Type of Business: Businessman
Main Achievements: founding Anhui food group, owning the trademark for Shazi Guazi brand
Something interesting about this person: he was illiterate and yet he became one of the first millionaires in China
Guangjiu Nian was born in 1937. His family lived in the Huihae region in China. The year he was born, a war had begun between China and Japan again. His childhood was difficult since the flood left his parents destitute. His father then decided to open a small fruit stall in a street corner. Guangjiu worked with his father, learning the ropes of the business. He did not go to school and had no formal education. Furthermore, he could only write the 5 Chinese letters, which made up his name.
However, Nian Guangjiu ended founding the Anhui Fool Group and chairman of the Fool Economic Development Company. His career as a businessman was not the easy one initially. Doing business was very difficult during the ’30s, and 40’s because of the strict rules and regulations of the Chinese Communist Party. Earning profit from the business was not legal at the time. Nian was determined to be a businessman in
The municipal government of Wuhu encouraged self-employed producers to make their local specialties. This was because the city was very famous for producing roasted seeds. They are a trendy snack in China. In 1963 he went to prison under the charges of profiting from is business and indulging in capitalistic doctrines. He was released, and by the late ’70s, though he officially operated a food cart, he was already developing a new seed roasting method to the ones used by state-run companies. He was willing to oppose them and had already started an underground watermelon seed business. This method he developed would later be used to produce what Guangjiu would call “Shazi Seed.” Today, his company holds the trademark for Shazi. The name of the brand name’s origin is the nickname Nian was given.
Nian’s fate would change thanks to Deng Xiaoping. He was the first person who started reforming the economic policies in China. In a shift from traditional communism, by 1979, private enterprises were encouraged. It was not without some restriction, though, as the businesses were supposed to be household enterprises, and the business founder had to work in the company as well. The number of workers they were allowed to hire was also limited to seven. Hiring more meant that the business people were not following Marx’s doctrines. Though China had changed the policy to 20 workers.
Nonetheless, Guanjiu was one of the first businessmen in China to take a step towards privatization. Hence, Nian decided to register his “Shazi sunflower seed” as a brand. The government decided to sponsor his efforts and launched reports of the products in newspapers and television. Eventually, the seeds started being distributed from Wuhu to the rest of China because of their unique flavor, low price, and excellent marketing. As a consequence, Guangjiu became one of the first millionaires in China.
Despite his business being successful, Nian faced controversy when he decided to hire more workers than he was allowed. His actions would become a catalyst for change. At the time, it was investigated by high-level officials in Beijing. Yet, Deng Xiaoping decided not to punish him, stating that he hired a few more would not damage socialism. The fact that his brand was becoming a staple also helped.
Though he was mostly unscathed, his business would suffer a significant blow in 1986. That year, the company had decided to launch a marketing campaign. In it, they were offering a car, a Shanghai Sedan, if they managed to win. The government, however, instated a ban on sale activities that involved prizes. This resulted in many customers returning the products, resulting in a significant loss.
To make matters worse, in 1987, he was accused of bribery. Later, he confessed he raped a woman. He was jailed for 30 months, and though his name was cleared, his sphere of influence decreased. He did attempt to come back to the business world, but it was futile. Instead, Nian ended selling his shares in the company to his children, in the years 2000. Not much is known about him since then.