In Sangpo, vil­lagers’ greet­ing is: ‘Have you de­liv­ered the goods?’

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS - By SHI BAOYIN and QI XIN in Mengzhou, He­nan qixin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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

XU HONGXING / FOR CHINA DAILY

A Sangpo vil­lager in Mengzhou, He­nan prov­ince, takes a pic­ture of snow boots to dis­play it on­line.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

A care­taker con­ducts a health check for a se­nior cit­i­zen at Vanke’s Dig­ni­fied Life Project in Liangzhu, Zhe­jiang prov­ince.

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