Dressed modestly, preferring T-shirts over suits, and without a hint of bling, Liu Yonghao doesn’t fit the mould of your typical Chinese billionaire entrepreneur . He speaks humbly, always goes to the same hairdressers, drove a modest Volkswagen Santana for years before being convinced to upgrade to a Mercedes, and travels in economy class making sure he gets any discounts going. Which universities are China’s billionaires sending their children to? Liu also proudly owns vegetable patches at both his homes in Beijing and Chengdu, where he grows his own chilli peppers and cucumbers. His familiarity with tending the land and the fact he is often called “China’s richest chicken farmer” reveal his meek beginnings. I grew rice and vegetables, and carried buckets of human feces. I did all the work that a peasant was expected to do Liu Yonghao Today though, Liu is founder and chairman of New Hope Group, an agribusiness company founded in 1982, and the vice-chair of China Minsheng Bank. With around 70,000 employees and 600 subsidiaries in 30 countries around the world, including a stake in Lansing Trade Group in the US, New Hope Group is a force to reckon with. All this gives him a net worth of more than US$10 billion, ranking him 19th on Forbes’ 2019 “China’s Rich List”. Who’s the richest entrepreneur to emerge from India’s tech boom? But it wasn’t always like this. Liu Yonghao and his three brothers went through hardships like few others. He was a “sent-down youth”, which meant that he was living a relatively comfortable urban life when he was sent to live as a peasant in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution. Zhang Lei: from selling instant noodles to buying Amazon shares He described his life on the farm in an interview with T he Financial Times , “During my four years and nine months as a sent-down youth, I grew rice and vegetables, and carried buckets of human feces. I did all the work that a peasant was expected to do. I might have a pole across my shoulder carrying 75kg. I was very hungry. I was as tall as I am now but I only weighed 55kg.” Hotpot billionaire Zhang Yong hits jackpot as Singapore’s richest person This experience didn’t deter him. He and his brothers tried to start a speaker assembly business, a venture that was shot down by a party leader saying that it was capitalism. But they tried again: With around US$125 that they got from selling their most prized possessions, a watch and a bicycle, they bought and raised quail. They sold the eggs and bred more quail until eventually, the idea of selling feed for livestock came to them. The brothers amicably split up the company, Hope Group, in the 1990s, all setting up their own companies. How Ding Lei became China’s first internet billionaire Liu Yonghao has always acknowledged his humble beginnings. “I never had proper shoes before the age of 20 and I was almost always hungry. Because I was very poor, I was very diligent and worked very hard. That creates values … and before I had nothing but now I have many things. So my attitude is great. I can look at my career and my life with a calm attitude.” Want more stories like this? Sign up here . Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter .