Exclusive attraction

Updated: 2011-08-12 11:09

By Alexandra Leyton Espinoza (China Daily European Weekly)

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"My business is very dependent on the partners we work with. That dependency has been key for us in getting where we are today.

"Closely connected to this fact is that here you are doing business with individuals, rather than the company they work for."

Jerling says there is a very different business culture in Beijing compared with Nordic countries. Generally speaking, from day one Northern European workers see themselves as representatives of the company.

This is not so in China, where personal relationships between individuals are more important.

"It is therefore harder to replace key staff here, for example, a sales person, who has built up his own network. Customers are more connected to that person than to the company he or she represents."

Because the young men were new entrepreneurs in the city, expectations about the success of their website was not too high.

They knew the idea was feasible but could never have imagined how popular it could become. The company now has about 1.2 million online members in China, including people from cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Dalian and Qingdao.

"Once I saw the potential of the company's growth, I decided to make myself at home in China," the 29-year-old says.

"Until then I had been living in temporary homes but I wanted something stable. A place I could hang up pictures on the walls, buy plants. A place I could call home.

"I think that is what every foreigner has to go through if they really want to live here."

The reason why other big online networking companies, such as Ren Ren and, are not their biggest concern or competition is because is not just about numbers, instead the site is about the spending capability of its members.

On average, each member spends about 4,000 yuan a month on clothes, electronics and partying. "So the services are developed to let this group of people network with those who share similar lifestyles. It's a comparatively older group between 20 and 35. But this group has a big influence in China, and can afford this lifestyle," he says.

To keep exclusive, membership is only available through invitation from an existing member. VIP membership costs 400 yuan and includes discounts at nightclubs, KTV (karaoke bars) and shopping malls. "We have trend scouts who invite people to nightclubs, department stores and high-end events," Jerling says.

He says his team's ability to understand and adapt to the market is the main reason for's success.

"We had drive, we were naive and there was a great dynamic between us all," he says. "If we believed in something we made it happen. None of us had worked for a company before. If anyone said let's try this out, we did.

"I see countless examples of foreign companies that spend time and money on campaigns that haven't been adapted to the Chinese mindset.

"Just look at the fact that there are three Chinese companies dominating the social network site market."

Jerling says it is a frustrating process hiring the right people. The main problem is the strict work and education system in which people do what they are told to do, and are not encouraged to be creative.

"Our kind of work demands a lot from employees. We don't have detailed descriptions of how everything is supposed to be done, but in the end, the people that have stayed have shown to be extraordinarily capable and dynamic."

And about his own development and future plans in the Middle Kingdom? "When I first came I was naive, strong willed and with no patience.

"Five years later I have become an idealist and more pragmatic. I don't have any plans on leaving China."

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