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'Taobao Villages' spark China's rural economy

Updated: 2013-08-20 15:15
( Xinhua)

JINAN -- In a year when college graduates are struggling to find jobs, a growing number of Chinese farmers are getting rich at the click of a mouse.

An Baokang has become a millionaire by selling crafts online from his hometown of Wantou Village in East China's Shandong province, with sales exceeding two million yuan (about $326,800) last year.

"Urban people revere a natural way of living, and I offer it to them with pure, natural crafts," said An, who runs an online store selling handwoven household supplies, such as tatami and tea tables made from straw.

Wantou, a village 350 km from Beijing, has become known as one of China's "Taobao Villages," home to over 500 online stores on Taobao, China's largest online shopping site under the e-commerce giant Alibaba.

Employed at home

With a stable but "boring" job in a nearby town, An in 2009 pioneered online sales of handwoven crafts in Wantou, where a tradition of wicker handicrafts has been handed down for at least 600 years.

An has since opened a physical store and a small factory with the cooperation of six neighboring family workshops in order to fill the orders flooding in from customers across the country.

"The online store has gained popularity and trust among netizens, who also bring business to my physical store," said An, adding that he has plans to expand the 150-square-meter physical store to about 1,000 square meters.

"Customers keep pouring in and I should seize the opportunity to expand production," he said.

At first, most of An's fellow villagers, who seldom set foot in large cities, didn't believe virtual shops could bring in customers, so they didn't follow suit, said An.

Now, nearly all households in Wantou have linked their family workshops to online stores. Their products are sold to customers as far away as northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, about 2,000 km from Wantou.

In this small village, the success of online sales is also driving other business. To date, there are over 20 express delivery companies in the village serving more than 500 family workshops and online stores.

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