Entrepreneurs capitalize on rural handicraft e-commerce

By Chen Xia
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, May 21, 2018
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Yang Chenglan and her husband stand beside some handmade ethnic cloth. [Photo/Xinhua]

Yang Chenglan, a thirty-something of the Dong ethnic group, was the first college graduate from her village in remote southwest China to return home to start a business. 

Born in a Dong village in Zaima town, Guizhou Province, Yang opened a shop on retail website Taobao to sell handmade ethnic cloth made by fellow villagers. She also set up a workshop to employ villagers to make cloth in the traditional fashion. 

While helping passing down the ethnic handicraft, she has helped more than 80 families live a better life. 

Opening a shop online was not Yang's first career choice after graduation. She used to be a middle school teacher, but when she returned home for holidays, she said she felt downcast, as only older people and children remained in her hometown, while all the young adults moved to big cities to make a living. 

Yang said that in her childhood, she saw villagers weaving cloth day and night at home. She said she began to think about ways to turn the village's weaving tradition into wealth, so that the young people could stay in their hometown to make money. 

In March 2016, Yang returned to her village and started a shop online. But her parents were unable to understand her decision, and local people had no interest in it at all. "I tried to persuade them to weave cloth, but they told me that we are in an industrial age, no one needs our cloth," Yang recalled.

After several setbacks, Yang began to wonder why villagers had no interest in joining her business. Later, some villagers told her that they were afraid she couldn't sell the cloth, and that their work would be worthless. 

To relieve their concerns, Yang made a promise that whenever a piece of cloth was sold, she would keep 20 percent of the profits while the remaining 80 percent would go to its maker. This fueled the enthusiasm of villagers.

With sufficient supply, Yang's business began to take shape, and her shop gained in popularity quickly. In 2017, Yang's shop earned more than 2 million yuan (US$313,676). She kept her promise and gave 80 percent of the profits to villagers, increasing their average monthly income to nearly 2,000 yuan (US$313.46). 

Yang's husband then quit his job and started another online shop to sell local agricultural products. Some young women also returned to their hometown from the city to learn weaving so as to join Yang's business.

Yang's shop is just one of the many successful examples of China's booming e-commerce industry, which has pumped new life into ethnic handicrafts and rural areas. 

In 2016, the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development released guidelines which stipulate that poor rural counties should increase their e-commerce sales fourfold by 2020, the year the Chinese government has set as its deadline to eradicate poverty across the country. 

By the government's own calculations, "There were still 30.46 million rural people living below the national poverty line at the end of 2017," according to Xinhua News Agency.

Because of the rapid development of the e-commerce industry, many rural youths like Yang have chosen to return home to open their own businesses. According to statistics of Alibaba, China's e-commerce giant and owner of Taobao, in 2017, online shops based in China's poorest counties earned about 37 billion yuan (US$5.8 billion) on Alibaba's retail platforms. 

So far, Alibaba has set up local service centers in about 30,000 villages across 700 counties to support its e-commerce business and provide delivery services in rural areas. This has directly created more than 1.3 million jobs. 

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