Sitting in his big office, a stone’s throw from the iconic Bird’s Nest, the Olympic Stadium in Beijing, Qiangdong “Richard” Liu is explaining how he got the idea for 360buy, China’s fast-growing e-commerce site (a mashup of Amazon and Fresh Direct), which global investors are lining up to back. Sure, Liu could claim that he had foreseen the rise of China and the Internet explosion, and that he had brilliantly found a way to capitalize on both trends. But in his first interview with a non-Chinese publication, Liu, an affable but quiet 38-year-old, tells Fortune that the success of 360buy, which is on track to hit $1.5 billion in sales next year, was less a product of inspiration than one of desperation.