Pork’s power

The boom­ing Chi­nese pork mar­ket is said to be worth about 1 tril­lion yuan a year

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By LIWENFANG in Guangzhou liwenfang@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The boom­ing Chi­nese pork mar­ket is so big it’s in­cluded in the cal­cu­la­tion of the na­tion’s CPI and is worth 1 tril­lion yuan a year.

Lu Bux­uan, a grad­u­ate of Pek­ing Univer­sity, also known as Beida, one of the most pres­ti­gious uni­ver­si­ties in China, has hit the head­lines again for sell­ing pork.

Lu grad­u­ated from the univer­sity’s Depart­ment of Chi­nese Lan­guage and Lit­er­a­ture in 1989 and be­came a self-em­ployed butcher in 1999 after hav­ing a few jobs in Xi’an, cap­i­tal of Shaanxi prov­ince. He made the head­lines in 2003 after his story was re­ported by a lo­cal tele­vi­sion sta­tion.

He has since been la­beled the “Beida butcher”, which is unimag­in­able to many, as cut­ting and sell­ing meat would not usu­ally be associated with a grad­u­ate of such a renowned univer­sity.

In 2004, he started work­ing for a lo­cal his­tory com­pi­la­tion of­fice in Xi’an, leav­ing fam­ily mem­bers to run his butcher shop.

How­ever, he has re­cently picked up his butcher’s knife again. But in­stead of work­ing at his fam­ily-run shop, which made 2 mil­lion yuan ($300,000) in 10 years, Lu is work­ing with Chen Sheng, a fel­low Pek­ing Univer­sity grad­u­ate, who owns Guang­dong No 1 Food Co.

“They have tried to per­suade me to join the­com­pany since 2010, but I was hes­i­tant. I didn’t think the busi­ness (of sell­ing ex­pen­sive pork) would last long,” Lu said.

But he later changed his mind.

“The Chi­nese pork mar­ket is huge. It is in­cluded in the cal­cu­la­tion of CPI and is worth about 1 tril­lion yuan a year, which is more than the home ap­pli­ance or com­puter mar­kets,” he said, adding that Chi­nese con­sumers are pay­ing more at­ten­tion to qual­ity.

Lu said it would have been bet­ter if he re­signed from his pre­vi­ous job ear­lier, adding that a light work­load at the lo­cal his­tory of­fice left him with too much idle time.

In his new po­si­tion, Lu will be en­gaged in tech­ni­cal work, train­ing at the butcher school and over­see­ing qual­ity con­trol, while also serv­ing as head of the on­line store.

He will also be in­volved in hir­ing em­ploy­ees and de­vel­op­ment of cor­po­rate cul­ture. He said he will help em­brace the chal­lenge of re­cruit­ing well-ed­u­cated peo­ple for the com­pany.

“In prin­ci­ple, we want to hire peo­ple who at least have a ju­nior col­lege ed­u­ca­tion. This year, we will hire col­lege grad­u­ates for most po­si­tions. We need to build our brand and change our im­age,” he said. “Uni­ver­si­ties used to be de­voted to cul­ti­vat­ing elites, but since re­cruit­ment num­bers have ex­panded, they have be­come more pop­u­lar­ized, im­prov­ing the qual­ity of work­ers na­tion­wide.”

“I would tell col­lege stu­dents to get a job be­fore se­lect­ing a ca­reer path,” he added. “I have al­ways been against the idea of col­lege stu­dents start­ing busi­nesses. They need to study well be­fore they start a busi­ness.”

Re­call­ing his ex­pe­ri­ences of go­ing into busi­ness be­fore he started to sell meat, Lu at­trib­uted his fail­ures to a lack of ex­pe­ri­ence and re­sources.

“I am calmer and more open-minded now,” he said.

When he gave a lec­ture at Pek­ing Univer­sity in 2013, he said he was an em­bar­rass­ment to his alma mater.

How­ever, Xu Zhi­hong, for­mer pres­i­dent of the univer­sity, said in re­sponse: “There is noth­ing shame­ful about a Beida grad­u­ate sell­ing pork. Do­ing small-scale, skilled work does not pre­vent a per­son from hav­ing grand ideals. Beida pro­duces politi­cians, sci­en­tists and pork ven­dors. They are all the same.”

Chen Sheng said: “I don’t think Beida stu­dents fol­low one sin­gle model. Sell­ing pork also in­volves tech­nol­ogy. Our pork busi­ness in­volves more than 1,000 stores and an­nual rev­enue of more than 1 bil­lion yuan. Would you say sell­ing pork is shame­ful? I would say tra­di­tional busi­ness, when well op­er­ated, makes more sense than the in­ter­net busi­ness.”

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Lu Bux­uan at a store of Guang­dong No 1 Food Co in Guangzhou.

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