NANJING - In only six years since graduating, Zhou Qingchun has made a triple jump in her career.
In 2005, Zhou opened an online store providing accessories wholesale business to retail stores. In 2009, she started a direct-sale business for contracted retail stores to reduce their stores' overstock risks. Now, she has established an entire factory in east China's Yiwu city, Zhejiang province, to design and produce popular accessories.
Many students have ambitions similar to Zhou in Nanjing city's Xianlin College town: they open online businesses while they are still college students or recent graduates, primarily on online communities and website trade platforms such as xl7788.com, xlxiang.com and uzone.univs.cn.
The websites themselves are established by college students. Shan Junbo, founder of a website trade platform called xlxiang.com, or Xian Lin Xiang, said that, so far, more than 300 online stores have registered on their website.
"We are still promoting our website in all kinds of forms to increase its daily visit flow and the amount of successful transactions. We want to realize our dreams to set up our own businesses through this website."
The booming e-commerce industry in China is now providing new job options for Chinese college students.
According to statistics on the China e-commerce research center b2b.toocle.com, as of December 2010, more than 1.6 million people have been employed in e-commerce businesses, more than half of whom were between 20 and 32 years old. Opening businesses online has become a trend among Chinese college students.
Chen Jin, dean of the School of Information Technology and Management Engineering, of the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, said that the e-commerce industry in China has solved the college students' employment problems, to some extent.
Some of the students' plans of setting up their own businesses could be realized more easily thanks to e-commerce, and the markets of this industry have more potential to fully develop. It also encourages students' innovative spirit, Chen said.
Wu Sheng, vice CEO of the renowned Chinese online business brand vancl.com, said that e-commerce has provided college students with a great platform from which to start a business, such as opening an online store at Taobao.com. College students have quick access to information, so they are more flexible in setting up businesses online, but they should also be aware that e-commerce is not as easy as they sometimes think.
Wu said that, "for example, many systematic requirements exist in setting up a B2C website, regarding website support technology, supply chain, marketing and advertising, etc."
Experts believe that online businesses have brought new job options for young students, but there are also challenges and difficulties. For example, a lack of social experience or people connections, an unreal and overly optimistic marketing forecast, and weak reactions towards setbacks, are students' disadvantages in operating their online businesses.
Besides, the e-commerce business in China is just starting up. Lack of intellectual property protection and dispute-solving abilities are some other challenges for college students entering the industry.
"Even though it has become a trend among students to set up business online, the successful ones are few," said Zhou Qingchun. "Students are unlikely to have price advantages, and if they don't have good advertising skills they can't attract customers."
Zhou said that the government should support college students in setting up their own businesses, such as simplifying the process of starting a business or reducing some taxes. "In this way, the e-commerce industry could bring more job options for college students."