|Ma Yingbiao (1860-1944), also named Wei, was born in the village Shachong (沙湧), near Foshan (佛山), in the western part of the Pearl River Delta, Guangdong province. He migrated to Australia in 1881 at the age of 17 and became a rich businessman three years later. In 1900, he raised 25,000 yuan (Chinese silver dollars, then equivalent to the Hong Kong (HK) dollar) to set up Sincere Company (先施百貨) in Hong Kong, where he worked as both director and supervisor and he was the first boss to use price tags and hire saleswomen. In 1912, the board collected 400,000 HK dollars to develop Guangzhou market. They built a five-floor building selling general merchandise on the Guangzhou bank. In 1914, they collected another 600,000 HK dollars to establish Sincere Company in Shanghai, a five-floor building on Nanjing Road.
He is also well know as a philanthropist: he opened a health center for women and children under his father’s name Zai Ming, and donated money to establish Shachong Women’s School, Shachong Kindergarten, Guangdong Female Seminary, and Nanyang Business School (南陽商學院) in Shanghai, where he was appointed as the president. He also donated to support the development of Lingnan University (嶺 南大學), initially established in Canton as “Canton Christian College” that was moved to Hong Kong in 1938, which enabled him to be the first Chinese director of this university.
Ma Yingbiao, as one of the forerunners of the department stores in China, contributed a lot for the modernization of this industry. It is undeniable that he was among many “firsts” in the history of business in China. It was Sincere Company that initiated the revolution of consumption pattern as well as the commercial pattern to a large extent. He encouraged the ladies to walk out from the boudoir into the society to work, which made the new female generation in China. In a nutshell, his commercial ideas affected several generations of Chinese people, including their sense of value and philosophy.
Additional information on Sincere Department Store (in Chinese): see link below