Retail in Asia

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How niche: China’s new startups get innovative


As living standards rise, Chinese values are rapidly becoming more diverse, prompting creative minds to break from traditions and discover profitable market niches to fill. Here are two startups innovating in China:

1) Anyoutian: local vegetables

Set up only two years ago, Anyoutian brought a big change to over 100 supermarkets in Shanghai, including major chain stores and local retailers, by selling locally produced fresh vegetables under its own brand.

“I wanted to buy safe fresh vegetables but I couldn’t find them anywhere,” said Xu Xiaofeng, the company’s 42-year-old founder. Xu was born into a farming family, and after 20 years at an information technology company he started his own business.

He only buys vegetables grown under the government’s production control guidelines and that qualify as “nonpolluting” in terms of residual chemicals, among other conditions.

He then sells the vegetables on the company’s e-commerce site with a quality guarantee. Orders are delivered within eight hours of harvest. The reasonable pricing and fast delivery are possible because the vegetables are produced locally and can be delivered at low cost.

2) Roseonly: bespoke roses

Roseonly in central Beijing’s Dawanglu district is not an ordinary florist selling bouquets of roses. “What we are selling is proof of love,” the store says.

The store is in a luxury shopping mall, alongside famous brands like Chanel, Rolex and Prada. Visitors can choose from 12 colours representing the zodiac to match his or her lover’s sign, or send specially processed roses that do not wither, or buy accessories in a music box to surprise their special someone.

The roses are shipped from Ecuador, kept at a constant two degrees Celsius. A bouquet of 19 roses sells for a pricey CNY 1,999 tag.