Zhong Shanshan is founder of Nongfu Spring Co Ltd and YST. [Photo provided to China Daily]
Zhong Shanshan, founder and chairman of Hangzhou-based Nongfu Spring, a leading enterprise in packaged drinking water and beverages in China, is currently the country's richest person and the sixth richest in the world, according to the "World's Real-Time Billionaires List" published by Forbes, an American business magazine.
With a net worth of $90.1 billion as of Jan 11, Zhong trails Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg ($95.1 billion in net worth), but is ahead of both Oracle founder and CEO Larry Ellison ($88.7 billion), as well as Warren Buffet ($88.0 billion), CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.
Before starting his own business in 1988, Zhong was a journalist at the Hangzhou-based newspaper Zhejiang Daily. Throughout his five-year journalism career, Zhong traveled around the entire province and interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs.
"We are not manufacturers of water. We are porters of nature," is a famous quip by Zhong that is also the commercial slogan of Nongfu Spring. The brand made up 29 percent of the volume of bottled water sold in China in 2019. It possesses water-extraction permits for 10 of the country's most famous unspoilt bodies of water, including Thousand-Islet Lake in Hangzhou's Chun'an county.
Nongfu Spring reported 3.39 billion yuan ($523.42 million), 3.61 billion yuan, and 4.95 billion yuan in net profit in 2017, 2018, and 2019 respectively. It started trading on the Hong Kong Exchange in September 2020 and currently has a market capitalization of around 700 billion yuan.
Zhong is also founder and chairman of Hangzhou-based YST, a leading manufacturer of health food in China.