Thousands of employees queue up to receive red packets personally from Tencent boss Pony Ma

Tencent employees queuing outside the company's headquarters in Shenzhen as they await their turn to receive a red packet from founder Pony Ma Huateng. -- PHOTO: WEIBO
Tencent employees queuing outside the company's headquarters in Shenzhen as they await their turn to receive a red packet from founder Pony Ma Huateng. -- PHOTO: WEIBO

SHENZHEN - It is a common practice for bosses of Chinese companies to hand out red packets to their employees during Chinese New Year. But what if the boss has thousands of people on his payroll?

Employees of Chinese Internet giant Tencent had to queue for hours just to get that lucky hong bao handed out personally by company founder Pony Ma Huateng.

Photos posted on Tencent's Weibo account showed a massive line outside the company's Shenzhen headquarters as employees returning to work on Thursday queued patiently for their turn. Some turned up before 8am to beat the queue, said Hong Kong's South China Morning Post.

The line was so long that it wound its way around the building.

An employee told the Post that Mr Ma was born in the Guangdong province, where it is a tradition for bosses to give red packets to their workers. About 5,000 hong baos - each containing between 10 yuan (S$2.20) and 100 yuan - were handed out by Mr Ma.

But employees did not mind the small amount. One employee said: "Many of us waited for a long time in line to get a red envelope from Ma because we don't always get to see him in the office, and it's nice to do it at the start of the New Year."

Forbes reported that Tencent, which operates popular Chinese instant messaging apps WeChat and QQ, had 24,993 employees as of May 2014, with a large number of them based at its Shenzhen headquarters.

Ironically, the company had launched a service via WeChat over the Chinese New Year period, which allowed users to send each other virtual red packets.

Tencent claimed on its Weibo account that 3.27 billion e-hong baos were sent between Feb 18 and Feb 23. According to a Feb 19 Forbes report, about 400 million yuan (S$86.6 million) had been exchanged.

mklee@sph.com.sg