The making of a leader

Zechao Ou

8 minute read

Regularly featured in the media, including several times in the Forbes magazine, Zechao Ou is widely recognised for his entrepreneurial spirit and influence in the world of new retail.

With many responsibilities already, including being a member of the World Economic Forum Global Shapers Hub, Zechao is making time to pursue the joint ANU-Tsinghua, Master of Management in Technological Innovation. This unique degree is taught by academic staff from both the ANU College of Business and Economics (CBE) and Tsinghua University at the Tsinghua campus in Beijing, China.  

In a recent interview, he discusses the distinctive skills he is learning through his new degree and breaks down the new shopping experience without boundaries – merging of online and offline commerce.

Q. What do you think is the most significant recent change to luxury and cosmetic retail industry? How has it impacted the direction of your corporate strategies?

Most recently, it has been COVID-19. The pandemic has turned the luxury and cosmetic-retail industry upside down, with its implications likely to last many years. Social distancing and staying home have changed customers’ shopping behaviours; from in-store buying to online buying for touch-free shopping experience, which pressures brands to quickly go digital. Therefore, e-commerce has become a must for the retail sector’s survival. Once the consumer purchases the item, the next issue is delivery of the product, as global supply chains are facing unprecedented challenges caused by lockdowns and travel restrictions.

Operating in a highly digitalised business mode saved us from being hit by COVID-19 at the beginning and allowed us to focus on online-shopping experience improvement. For example, we launched the AI skin testing platform to connect and serve consumers and companies better.

Q. You have been named in the Forbes Asia 30-under-30 list. How has your professional life evolved since you were first featured on the Forbes list?

I am excited to be featured by Forbes for the fourth time. Forbes annual list recognises the top young entrepreneurs and change-makers, who revolutionise industries, businesses and societies. I have the honour of being recognised in Forbes’ first ever list of "30 sociality new retailing influencers in China" in 2019, Forbes 30 under 30 in China (2019), Forbes 30 Young Entrepreneurs in Asia (2020), and Forbes 30 under 30 big money in Asia (2020). Rising from the China list to the Asia list indicates our team are on the right track towards the global market. Forbes has provided me an opportunity to communicate and connect with other high-performing talents from different backgrounds and cultures. It opened the door for me to explore markets in Asia, Europe and North America.

Q. What is the toughest challenge you have faced? What did you learn from it?

COVID-19 has to be counted as the toughest challenge I have faced so far. I started to think as an individual human being, I have not yet fully prepared nor am I capable to tackle the major health pandemics we are currently facing. COVID-19 is an opportunity to slow down and learn to collaborate with our global partners. We have been fortunate to have supportive business partners to give us helping hands when we needed. During the pandemic, we offered free AI technical services to the industry partners to fast-track their digitalisation processes. We believe that we are able to stay strong together, to defeat any obstacles together and to build a better future together.

Q. While studying the ANU-Tsinghua Master of Management program, can you highlight any opportunities that have advanced your academic and professional journeys?

The curriculum and course delivery are inquiry-based, highly practical, and encourage discussions, know-how, and critical thinking. I enhanced my technical skills and learned about different management styles and creating influential presentations. I also improved my transferrable skills, including interpersonal communication, problem solving, adaptive and collaborative skills. The graduate coursework program has offered innovative management theory and practice that educated and inspired me to rise as a future industry leader.

Q. How do you plan to use your degree and student experience after you graduate?

I will use my learning to lead a meaningful life. I will keep exploring and implementing the “recognised solution to how to achieve global leadership gender equality” with more entrepreneurs, experts and scholars. Also, as a member of World Economic Forum Global Shapers Hub, I had the opportunity to be inspired and want to inspire others to actively shape our environment. We’ll use our efforts and resources to make a more liveable planet. At the moment, I’m working on a fundraising project for Koala rescue. I’m reaching out to the Shapers Hub, connecting with likeminded people who are eager to help with the rescue and treatment of sick and injured koalas, and release them back to their home range where possible.

My long-term business goal is to continue creating valuable products and services that can bring happiness to users around the world through technology and innovation. This is also the vision of our business.


The ANU-Tsinghua Master of Management is highly regarded in China, and in Australia it is viewed by experts as an example of best practice in transnational education. The curriculum and course delivery is inquiry-based, and rewards curiosity, debate and critical thinking. For more details about this degree click here.