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Chinese bookstore begins a new chapter in Sri Lanka

Updated: 2013-12-24 07:15
By Ben Yue in Hong Kong ( China Daily)

Chinese bookstore begins a new chapter in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan customers browse Chinese books at the newly opened Xinzhi bookstore in Colombo, the company's fifth overseas outlet. Provided to China Daily

For many Chinese, Colombo is a great place to shop for jewelry and tea, but for Li Yong, the Sri Lankan capital is the location of the latest in his chain of Chinese bookstores.

Li's company, Kunming Xinzhi Group, is China's largest private book retailer, with 58 outlets around the country. It opened its fifth overseas bookstore in late November in Sri Lanka. The 450-square-meter shop is the first in South Asia, but others have opened in Phnom Penh, Vientiane, Kuala Lumpur and Mandalay in Myanmar during the past two years.

"We have a medium-term plan that by 2015 we will have 10 bookstores in Southeast and South Asia. Our long-term plan is to have 20 around the world by 2020," said Li, the founder and president of Kunming Xinzhi, who began conducting market research into Southeast Asia in the mid-1990s, finally opening the first overseas store in Phnom Penh in Cambodia in November 2011. He found that the demand for knowledge about China and for Chinese language learning aids is growing rapidly in the region, so the company decided to focus on Asian cities with large populations of ethnic Chinese and Chinese entrepreneurs.

"We are also considering Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Bangladesh and Nepal," Li said. "Our sixth store will be on the way when we can rent a proper place in any of those countries."

Li's confidence about future expansion is built on the enthusiastic reactions of readers in the five countries where the stores have already launched. At the opening ceremony, and during an earlier 10-day trial run, the Colombo store sold a wealth of Chinese dictionaries, ancient literature, modern novels and language textbooks.

Xinzhi's vice-president, Yao Shusheng, who is in charge of overseas operations, said many students from the local Confucius Institute, a language school backed by the Chinese government, have flocked to the store.

"Our target customers are Chinese people who work in those countries, people of Chinese descent who want to know more about the culture, local people who are learning Chinese, and scholars and officials who are interested in China," he said.

"We sell the 'big culture' concept in our stores. Not just Chinese books, but also audiovisual products, sports goods, gifts, even furniture and accessories," he said.

There are future plans for Chinese schools, galleries and cultural centers under the company's brand. "We need a multi-driven business model to support our overseas operations. After all, the purchasing power for Chinese books in those countries can't be as high as in the domestic market," he said.

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