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E-commerce helps farmers shake off poverty

By Ren Xiaojin, Zheng Yiran and Cheng Yu | China Daily | Updated: 2018-12-14 09:51
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Villagers pack yellow pears for sale through an e-commerce poverty-alleviation project in Shizhuang village of Huaji town in Linquan county, Anhui province. [Photo by Dai Wenxue / For China Daily]

Making a stew in an office water dispenser, or cooking a full barbecue using a car engine, Mrs Yeah is one of the country's hottest internet sensations, with over 6 million fans in China and 4.5 million followers on overseas social media.

But, Mrs Yeah and the marketing company behind her, Onion Group, have bigger ambitions than just showing the world how to be an unconventional chef. They aim to use the influence of social media to help villagers with poor internet access to sell their products.

"You can buy the agricultural products Mrs Yeah uses in her video with one click, as the social media page links directly to the sales channel. Through our key opinion leaders, we connect e-commerce platforms like Taobao with villagers," said Nie Yangde, co-founder of Onion Group.

Onion Group's top online influencers held livestreaming sessions on Dec 12, a nationwide shopping festival.

"Also, there are creative young villagers who want to make a change, but they don't know how to make interesting content that attracts people online. What we do is turn them into key opinion leaders," Nie said.

With a previous career in traditional media, Nie learnt the industry firsthand, seeing the difference it could make to a business.

"Once you have interesting content to attract online traffic, you can sell much more easily. We don't just sell the products for villagers, we teach them how to sell it," Nie said.

The company's next ambition is to cultivate one online influencer in each county across the country.

Although it is not yet known how much economic impact one single village key opinion leader can bring to the whole county, Nie said it is not too hard for his top influencers to generate 100 million yuan in revenue a year. As such, he expressed confidence for the future of the plan.

Onion Group was selected among 10 Chinese companies with an outstanding performance in social responsibility and poverty alleviation on Dec 12 by Taobao and The Poverty Alleviation Office of China Electronic Commerce Association in Changsha, capital of Central China's Hunan province.

Jiang Ji, general manager of a local e-commerce company Xijiang Qianhu Miao Village Tourism Product Development Co Ltd, agreed with Nie's vision. He said selling agricultural products is the best way to help poverty-stricken counties, but the biggest problem is to make the products known among the public.

"From our previous experience, consumers are generally happy about the agricultural products from Leishan, an extremely poor county in Guizhou province, but the problem was few people knew this place," he said. "We have a competitive price and excellent products, but we had no online traffic."

Ge Shuang, deputy director of the Poverty Alleviation Office of CECA, said: "China's poor rural areas suffer from poverty mainly because of information asymmetry. Many high-quality agricultural products are not sold in cities, while urban consumers are eager to buy healthy agricultural products. Through the project, we take advantage of Taobao's online traffic to promote these good products.

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