Zhou Qunfei: from lowly factory worker to China's richest woman

Zhou is now worth a whopping US$10 billion, but she is determined to remain grounded

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 April, 2015, 12:44am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 April, 2015, 8:27am

Zhou Qunfei has hit the big time. Her fame and worth are set to rise even higher this month with the arrival in shops of the Apple Watch.

The founder of touch-screen maker Lens Technology, who was last week named the country's richest woman with a personal fortune valued at US$10 billion - and counting - will see her firm's glass and sapphire crystal on the faces of Apple's 20 watch models when they go on sale on April 24.

Yet the former factory worker from Hunan province who now commands a workforce of about 60,000 is reportedly not comfortable with her new-found fame.

"I'm not qualified to be a high-profile person," Hunan Daily quoted her as saying. "I think it's important not to get carried away when you are successful - and not to let yourself feel gloomy when times are bad."

Zhou, 45, found fame after Lens debuted on Shenzhen's ChiNext A-share market on March 18. Her net worth grew 452 per cent as her company's shares hit the daily trading limit for 13 consecutive days.

She has dethroned the mainland's previous richest woman Chan Laiwa, founder and chairwoman of Beijing property developer Fuwah International Group. Chan is worth US$7.1 billion.

A shares are subject to a 44 per cent trading limit on the first day of listing and then a 10 per cent limit on each subsequent day. Since Lens' debut, its shares hit the trading cap every day between March 18 and April 2.

Zhou's rags-to-riches story has inspired the mainland's millions of migrant workers, convincing many that today's hard toil and drudgery can eventually bring them huge success, too.

Zhou was born into a poor family in Xiangxiang . Her father was blinded in an accident in the 1960s, the Oriental Morning Post reported, and her mother died when she was five. She quit school at 15 and went to work in Shenzhen.

In an interview with Gansu Television, Zhou said her desire to learn was a secret to her success.

In 1993, she set up her own company after a small family-run business where she had worked making parts for watches, collapsed.

The fortunes of Zhou's firm took a dramatic leap forward in 2001 when she won a lucrative deal to make glass screens for TCL's mobile phones.

In 2003, she launched Lens Technology, developing the start-up into the touch-screen sector's dominant player, supplying products made by leading electronics giants including Apple, Samsung and Huawei.

Last year, Lens posted net profits of 1.18 billion yuan on revenue of 14.5 billion yuan.