Another day, another Western website opens in China.
Only, unlike the plethora of Beijing- and Shanghai-based sites, which offer
amusing oddities and petty gripes in English, Jongo is aiming at the bigger
picture: a comprehensive view of China.
The people behind the website (www.jongo.com) took an opportunity in Shanghai
last week to unveil their ambitious plans to make it a one-stop-portal for both
visiting foreigners and those already living and working in China. The
difference, however, is that Jongo hopes to cover the entire country.
"There is a definite lack of transparency regarding information on China for
the outsider," Jongo Chairman Wade Smith said. "We want to fill that gap by
offering all that is available on one giant free directory."
A cursory glance at Jongo's website proves that all the essentials are in
place news, views, reviews, weather updates, language tools, videos, and a
surprising number of pictures depicting "super-amazing!" girls in bikinis.
Jongo is a Shanghai-based Internet company with international operations in
Hong Kong, where Smith is based. It is registered in Jersey, one of the United
Kingdom's Channel Islands, and thus enjoys offshore privileges. Its catchy name
derives from the sound of the Chinese characters for China.
Jongo's ambitions to be the first English-language website to cover China
nationwide seem vast, but so far its figures are quite impressive.
The website has 100,000 images, 20,000 news items, 30,000 restaurant reviews,
and, although it is still concentrating on Beijing and Shanghai, it promises to
reel in the second- and third-tier Chinese cities soon.
"We want to take portal hybrids to the next level," said Smith, an investor
in emerging technology markets, who previously launched a Russian business
website in English in Moscow.
"We aim to provide solid content on all the facets of Chinese life, both the
glamorous and not-so-glamorous, so that foreigners will get a real taste of
Smith also revealed that Jongo would soon be available in Japanese.
The website is aimed at everybody, but its launch party had a distinctly
"guys-meet-girls" feel to the proceedings, complete with sexy dancers and a
guest speaker in the form of high-octane Swedish explorer Johan Nilson, who
hopes to climb Qomolangma later this year and plant the Jongo flag on its
Subtle this is not.
Yet Jongo does have the muscle (70 full-time staff and climbing). It also
hopes to introduce an interactive mapping system on running business reports and
an exhaustive travel guide for the entire country.
Smith is not afraid of investing in such a high-risk project. "It will take
patience and time," he said, "but we are not going to sell off Jongo to the
first bidder. We are talking long term. There are 100 million people currently
learning Chinese globally. We think the market is there to succeed."
(China Daily 02/09/2007 page5)