Faces of reform and opening-up: 'Hurun China Rich List' chronicles China’s economic transformation
Updated 14:52, 04-Jan-2019
By Michael Wang
In China, the name Rupert Hoogewerf might draw a few blank stares. But, if Rupert’s Chinese name is mentioned: Hu-run, then things become immediately clear. 
The namesake of the company he founded, Hurun Report and the name “Hurun,” is now synonymous with “wealth” in China. Most famous for its “Hurun China Rich List,” this ranking is arguably the most definitive list of the wealthiest Chinese individuals and families. 
"I started out doing the China Rich List as a way of answering a simple question. What's going on in China? I put together a list of the most successful entrepreneurs and the stories of these people to tell the story of modern China,” said Hoogewerf.
For Hurun, his list of China's wealthiest goes beyond just a ranking. It chronicles and reflects China's economic transformation since the inaugural list in 1999. 
Rupert Hoogewerf and his “Hurun China Rich List” chronicles China's economic transformation. /VCG Photo

Rupert Hoogewerf and his “Hurun China Rich List” chronicles China's economic transformation. /VCG Photo

“You can really see the story of China…the absolute number of entrepreneurs have grown…it's grown exponentially from one over 20 years ago to 800 today. But more importantly you can actually see how the economy of China has evolved. You can see where they are making their money from,” said Hoogewerf.
Innovation and scalability are both hallmarks of the Chinese economy today. But, for the country’s start-ups – speed is also key, especially in achieving unicorn status. 
“One of the phenomena at the moment that is really worth pointing out is the young start startups that are booming into unicorns. There are now more unicorns in China than in America. We got 182 at the latest count. Which basically means that this year, 2018, every three days we found a new one. That's just absolutely mind blowing,” Hoogewerf explained.
And evolving with that spirit of entrepreneurship, Hurun developed new lists for a rapidly changing China. In the process, he uncovered new insights and met new demands along the way. 
Hurun's business is in expansion mode today. But it wasn't all smooth sailing for Hurun. For any entrepreneur, starting off is always challenging.
“In the early days it was very difficult. I don't think I earned any money for almost 8 years. I wasn't doing a business because I wanted to earn lots of money where I had a plan, a five-year plan then I was going to cash out…it wasn't like that. My business is much more organic. I thought, this has got to have legs. I know that this is something valuable. But I found it very difficult to monetize …and it honestly took about six to eight years before we started to make money,” Hoogewerf recalled.
Although it took several years before his company turned a profit, Hurun does not believe starting a business in China is different compared to other parts of the world. 
“I don't feel like I've had any cultural obstacles. I clearly don't speak Chinese as well as local people, but I think being an entrepreneur anywhere in the world, you need to set up a team, find your business model and start making money to start paying your salaries so on and so forth. These are the common factors of being an entrepreneur in the UK or China. It doesn't make any difference,” said Hoogewerf.
As for the future of the Hurun Report, it's all about growing in lock-step with an increasingly open China, a launch-pad for the company's global aspirations. 
Rupert Hoogewerf or Hurun. /VCG Photo

Rupert Hoogewerf or Hurun. /VCG Photo

“I think for the Hurun Report, I want to build us into a recognized global leader for rankings of all types. That's at the heart and DNA of all that I do."
"Then I hope that as China grows, we can grow too. As China grows not just in China but on the global stage, I expect the Hurun Report to grow on the global stage as well. We are, for example, next year going to be doing the world's largest Chinese New Year dinners' series. So I'm starting in Shanghai, going to North America, Europe, and Australia. We're going to be doing almost 10 cities and doing a Chinese New Year dinner in each city, bringing together a lot of the Chinese in each city but also those who are working closely with China in each of those cities and presenting awards and having a good time as well. But it's building a platform of China as they are going overseas and going global," said Hoogewerf.
A love of languages led Rupert Hoogewerf, or Hurun, to study Chinese and a curious mindset helped him spark a business far away from his native England. China's reform and opening-up is not just a journey for the Chinese but a path shaped by all who walked alongside the country's continuous transformation.