Breaking the glass ceiling in China: How Zhou Qunfei of Lens Technology became the only self-made richest woman in China

By MoneyTimes

Aug 03, 2015 07:10 AM EDT

Lens Technology is a $7.2B worth glass screen business in China. The company provides glass screens to top labels like Samsung, Windows and Apple and had made a public offer in March. It is owned and founded by Zhou Qunfei, the richest self-made woman in China who used to work as a factory worker.

This year, Zhou's stake climbed up to $7.2B when Lens Technology offered it publicly on Shenzhen ChiNext five months ago. It cemented her block as China's richest woman, The New York Times reported.

On 2014, Lens Technology increased its profit for about 40 percent (approximately $2.4B). The company has 75,000 workers with three manufacturing facilities occupying 800 acres of land in Changsha, Hunan Province with an immense volume of glass from its international manufacturers in the U.S. and Japan every day.

In a report from The Australian Review, the current collapse in the Chinese stock market affected Lens Technology losing 36 percent or $4.8billion. In spite of that, Zhou still managed to be on top.

Ms. Zhou is very fixated on the job. Her apartment is placed next to her office in one of her plants in Changsa. There's an opening door behind her table.

James Zhao, the general manager of Lens Technology said Zhou occasionally still works as an operator to inspect. And it embarrassed him if she noticed some glitches.

She knows how to work in a factory. She came from a poor family in Hunan province. Her mother passed away and her father became blind in an accident at work. At 16, she gave up her studies and went to his uncle's place to work in a factory in Shenzhen.

Qunfei worked for a watch manufacturing company at $1 a day, working from 8 a.m. - 10 p.m. and worse, until 12 midnight. "There were no shifts, just a few dozen people, and we all polished glass. I didn't enjoy it," she described.

She decided to resign to the job, but the chief of the factory was amazed by her and promoted her to a higher position for the company's expansion.

She built her own factory in 1993 with HK$3, 000 offering watch lenses when the company closed with the support from her relatives and families. She started printing on screens and manufacturing curved glass to be assembled on machineries.

At the time when phone screens were still made of plastic, she received a phone call from Motorola requesting her to develop a glass screen that is scratch free for Moto Razr V3. That's the time she started earning big. Other companies followed such as Nokia and HTC. In 2007, Apple ventured into touch-screens and they picked Lens Technology as their supplier.

Zhou planned and arranged each and every process. As much as possible, she wanted to avoid the same accident that happened to her father in the production area so she became very attentive to details.

In an interview, she recalled girls in their province would normally study in the middle school, get married and get old in the village, with certainty, she added, "I chose to be in business, and I don't regret it."

Zhou is divorced to her former factory boss and had one child. Now, she's a wife to Zheng Junlong, a co-worker, according to Forbes.

No woman had made it one of the riches if not hereditary. Only Zhou broke the record.

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