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Young Chinese man starts business in Russia


08-23-2016 13:06 BJT

Full coverage: G20 Hangzhou Summit

China is encouraging innovation and promoting the growth of startups. And some entrepreneurs are spreading their wings to set up businesses overseas.

Aleftina Maryina started selling clothes online in fashion January this year. With limited if not zero budget for promotion, she began advertising her goods through social networks. But she hardly sold more than half a dozen of items per month. In March she decided to try a new platform - ToBox. The Chinese-made app designed to link shoppers and sellers, helped her set up an online shop - for free. And within a month her sales increased nine-fold. Aleftina says the app’s built-in chat helps her establish personal relations with shoppers and get long-term loyal clients.

"It’s convenient that I can work through a mobile app - the order data arrives immediately, I can respond to the client right away , process the order and the clients like it - to get feedback to their requests immediately. So even when I’m on the road travelling I can stay in touch with them," Maryina said.

The app aggregates goods from big Russian online retailers, smaller internet shops and individual sellers offering their goods through social networks.

ToBox, a Chinese start-up, was launched in Russia late last year. It won a 50mln dollar investment from the Shunwei Capital venture fund, and hopes to attract $30mln more to expand its business in Russia.

ToBox’s executive director, 24-year old Feng Lin, graduate of Russia’s Vladivostok University, says Russia is a great market for e-commerce businesses.

"Russia has the biggest number of internet users in Europe. It ranks third worldwide in e-commerce. And we noticed that there was a gap in services for small and medium-sized online retailers and lack of tools that could help them boost sales," Feng said.

He says the Chinese companies that have strong experience in e-commerce can win a lot from collaboration with Russian IT specialists.

"I think Russia has very qualified developers. So it’s best for us to be here - to be close to our clients. And close to our developers - so that they can get and implement our tasks quicker. that way we can put together a good product very quickly," Feng said.

Since January the company has signed up 12000 sellers and hopes that number to grow reaching half a million in two years’ time. In the long run Mr.Lin eyes expansion into other G20 countries - ToBox is nearing a launch in Brazil, with Australia and India also in plan.

Russian economy has begun to emerge from the longest recession of the past two decades, the country’s Central Bank said in August. And with the low cost of local currency and labor force, Russia is becoming an attractive place to start new businesses.

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