In Sangpo, villagers’ greeting is: ‘Have you delivered the goods?’
Every morning, as soon as he wakes up, online storekeeper Ding Renpeng, 32, whips out his three mobile phones to check if some buyers left any messages on his WeChat account. That’s become a habit for him and others of his ilk in Sangpo village near Mengzhou city, in Central China’s Henan province.
Sangpo is a “Taobao village”. It mainly sells snow boots and winter clothing online. Different from other farmers, the local villagers hold two or three mobile phones each, to run online businesses. Not for them the popular option of moving to some big cities to slog as migrant workers.
On Nov 11 (Singles Day), there were nearly 300 online orders. Ding and his wife often work until 2 am around the shopping festival as it tends to be the busiest time of the year, he said.
Seeing a self-portrait of a buyer in a new coat bought from his store, he smiles and sends a “lucky red packet” in appreciation.
“In Sangpo, we greet each other by asking, ‘Have you delivered the goods or not?’ ”
Such is the prevalence of online businesses among the villagers that Sangpo was labeled the first “Taobao village” in Henan by e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd in 2014.
Since then, Sangpo has rid- den the e-tide to achieve stellar growth, exemplifying the potential of the digital era to transform China’s countryside.
For long, Sangpo has been a gathering place for the Hui. The people specialize in traditional cashmere processing — that’s been their livelihood since economic reforms began in the 1980s, said Fan Hongbo, a villager in charge of an online business.
Fan said nearly 80 percent of sheepskins that Australia imports are from Sangpo, also Asia’s largest sheep-shearing, processing and distribution center.
“This trade was started by our ancestors. Until recently, we engaged in selling processed cashmere goods. But now, we would like to sell commodities rather than semi-finished goods,” Ding said.
On Ding’s online store, various winter clothes leap out and catch your eye. Buyers can buy by simply scanning the quick-response or QR code and paying through WeChat.
“The rapidly growing domestic consumer markets are pushing us to pay attention to the young people, especially on digital platforms,” he said.
Toward that end, he has set up a photography studio to enable buyers download highresolution images of his goods off his store.
Young consumers can also post their own selfies wearing clothes bought from his store and circulate them on WeChat friends’ circles. That helps spread the word among online populations and boost sales.
Such proactive approach to online sales has seen Sangpo becoming home to more than 130 sheepskin processors and 300 online stores connected with numerous buyers in Heilong jiang, Jiangsu and Guangzhou, as well as in the United States and Russia.
More than half of the villagers run some business online. Sangpo’s annual sales are expected to touch 500 million yuan ($72.5 million) this year.
WeChat does not have to take a direct part in the manufacturing process, but it acts like a bridge connecting end users with producers, said Guo Wenyue, a WeChat general agent of Cozy Steps, a semiluxury brand that set up a WeChat store based in Sangpo four months ago.
He said his WeChat-based business is a new field to explore and could help build the brand, attract customers.
Online business, he said, offers him a price advantage as the cost of sales is lower compared to sales at a mall.
“It’s fiercely competitive as online customers focus on quality. It’s a huge market for a semi-luxury brand,” Guo said.
The rapidly growing domestic consumer markets are pushing us to pay attention to the young people, especially on digital platforms.”
Ding Renpeng, a 32-year-old online storekeeper in Sangpo village of Mengzhou city, Henan province
A Sangpo villager in Mengzhou, Henan province, takes a picture of snow boots to display it online.
A caretaker conducts a health check for a senior citizen at Vanke’s Dignified Life Project in Liangzhu, Zhejiang province.