5. Pony Ma
Pony Ma
Company: Tencent
Title: Founder, chairman, and CEO
Age: 40

Pony Ma has a reputation for being the best product manager in China's tech industry. He founded Shenzhen-based Tencent in 1998 as an instant messaging service and has since turned the company into a web giant, with an online gaming platform, a social networking service, and a huge web portal (QQ.com) as part of its offerings. Much like American web giants during the 1990s halcyon days, Pony Ma's company will need to keep its eye on maintaining steady growth without turning into an unwieldy giant. The web company has been accused of anticompetitive practices and was taken to court by Chinese anti-virus software firm Qihoo, which accused Tencent of taking unfair advantage of its market dominance by preventing its users from installing Qihoo's products.

Ma subsequently announced in May that Tencent would restructure itself to make its operations more open and to expand its business lines beyond gaming. Tencent's transformation may not simply be an expedient response to industry skepticism, but could turn out to be an ambitious development strategy. In China, platform-oriented technology companies similar to Microsoft (with Windows), Apple (with its App Store), and Google (with Android) are still very rare. It's unclear if Tencent can reach a similar stage, as this is not really a part of the company's roots.



By Fortune China @FortuneMagazine - Last updated May 31 2012: 10:28 AM ET
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