Updated: 2011-08-12 11:09
By Alexandra Leyton Espinoza (China Daily European Weekly)
Svante Jerling says his total lack of experience in the Western corporate world has been one reason for his success in China. Alexandra Leyton Espinoza / for China Daily
Young Swedish entrepreneur's online social networking website is aimed at China's rich
There is a major demand from well-heeled Chinese to network with their peers, according to Swedish native Svante Jerling, an exclusive social networking site.
"During the global economic crisis, China did not only survive, it expanded. This is the place to be when it comes to dealing with luxury consumption," he says.
And it is luxury consumers who are target members, making the website one of the largest databases of high-end users in China.
Adventure brought Jerling to China for the first time in 2005. While he was studying political science at Stockholm University he decided to take a break from his college schedule and live abroad, either in South America or China.
"Sweden was so boring because there was no buzz and I wanted to try something totally different. Even South America seemed too Western, so the decision went to China," he says laughing.
Like many young newcomers, Jerling studied Chinese in Beijing, but moved back to Sweden after one semester. He wanted to make sure he had left Sweden for the right reason.
"Again, I didn't find Sweden challenging enough. In China everything was changing, something new was happening, the tempo was high, so I moved back."
He returned to the Chinese capital and after one year in Beijing he bumped in to two other Swedes, Yu Wang and Alexander Frederiksen. They discussed the possibility of building an online network that would attract affluent young Chinese, a group that has grown noticeably in China.
In order to develop their own business model, the friends looked at three other successful online communities: Stureplan.se in Sweden for its snapshots of young, attractive, rich people; Facebook for its interactive function, and A Small World.net in the US for its by-invitation-only system.
In 2007 their website was launched and their fingers were crossed.
"From the beginning it was hard to convince event managers, club owners, people on the streets to have their picture taken. They didn't see the value as a free commercial. For them I was just a strange Westerner," he says.
Because Jerling had never done business in Sweden, he could adjust quite easily to the business environment in China, but he still found building guanxi (relationships) quite challenging. "If there is one thing that is better here, it is definitely networking," he says. "Both Chinese and Western people in Beijing are very helpful and willing to introduce their friends and business networks when they think there are mutual benefits in working together.
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