E-commerce helps create jobs in villages specializing in fishing gear
Updated 13:58, 11-Sep-2020
By Chen Yurong

Chen Lei, head of Xiqianbo Village, pioneered e-commerce business in his hometown after doing small businesses in Beijing for over 10 years. 

In the village located in Cangzhou City in north China's Hebei Province, next to Chinese capital Beijing, two-thirds of the population of 1,120 are employed in e-commerce-related jobs.

Tens of thousands of fishing rods from this village are sold across the country in one day, with the annual revenue exceeding 60 million yuan (8.76 million U.S. dollars).

"I was into fruit wholesale business and also operated a factory. In 2012, I noticed my son and daughter-in-law often shopped online. I found buying and selling goods online very simple and practical, and I think it will continue to be a way for people to live and shop in future," said Chen, who afterwards decided to start an e-commerce business related to fishing rods and gear, which is a special production locally. 

The journey towards e-commerce was nothing easy for Chen. Not only because he had to start everything from scratch, but also his family went through some difficult times. Fortunately, things eventually worked out.

Chen was elected as the village head in 2014. Having tasted the fruitful outcome of his e-commerce business, Chen thought about leading more villagers towards a wealthier life.

"I saw the villagers living a hard life, relying only on farming for a living. I was very sad and wanted to help them live a better life," Chen said, adding that back then he convened a meeting about starting an e-commerce meeting with Party members and village representatives.

Unsurprisingly, many of them didn't understand or didn't believe in what he said at first. They doubted they could sell fishing gear and earn money while sitting at home, and worried that could lead to losing money.

"At that time, I told them that first of all we have to change our mindset. We can't say that farmers can do nothing but farming. We need to become new and professional farmers, by learning how to run businesses and operating factories," Chen recalled.

Chen's patient persuasion succeeded in converting some of the villagers. Soon, he started offering training sessions, sharing his first-hand experience and know-how of e-commerce.

"We turned an abandoned kindergarten classroom into a training venue. I taught them everything like how to register an on-line store, how to upload products and how to sell," he said. 

Wei Yajing is one of the villagers who first responded to Chen's call for taking an e-commerce business.

Wei used to work at an urban printing factory, with a low annual salary of about 10,000 yuan (1,500 U.S. dollars), about an average monthly salary in Beijing. 

"After I got married and had a kid, I felt like I had to earn more money to support my family. So, I started working in the fields and earned 20,000 to 30,000 yuan in a good year," Wei said. 

With Chen's inspiration, Wei started doing e-commerce business. "It was very difficult when we first got involved in e-commerce, as we know nothing about the fishing gear industry," she recalled, adding that they had no orders in the beginning, which made them feel unsure of it. 

"The elders were against the idea, but I insisted on. I said we'd give up if it does not work. But after two months, I saw progress," Wei said. 

Everyday, she spends hours via livestreaming introducing and selling fishing gear. Wei has now about 200,000 followers and about 10,000 daily audience, three years after she started livestreaming business.

"The peak season is approaching as the weather is getting cooler, we have more orders now. When we have a large number of viewers during a livestreaming session, there are around a few hundreds to one thousand orders made a day," she said.

After engaging in e-commerce, she now manage to make around 200,000 to 300,000 yuan a year. 

Faced with growing competition in the local livestreaming sector, Wei started her own factory in the village to lower costs and sell self-developed brands.

"The competition is intense right now, because there are a variety of fishing rods, and all shops are selling the same ones. So, we are developing our own brands and creating our own fishing rods," she said.

The thing Wei is most satisfied with her life is that she can take care of her family while making good money. 

"Now the situation is particularly good. We have our own car and our own place to live, we feel very blessed and satisfied," she smiled.

At about ten minutes' drive from Xiqianbo Village is Han'er Village. It is home to larger-scale fishing gear factories, which largely employ local talents.

Li Changyong is the owner of a fishing equipment company. He used to be a supplier of fishing rods to e-shop owners on Alibaba and Taobao, both are online-shopping websites of Chinese e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba Group.

"I started my Taobao store in 2017. It was an instant hit; in nearly four months we were one of the leading shops," Li said. 

Li's business expanded as the livestreaming sector flourished. Today, in his three-story factory there is a large number of young employees working in livestreaming and operations.

"Now not many people want to move to bigger cities to find work, because we can provide them with a lot business and employment opportunities right here," Li said, adding that some employees' income in the local e-commerce industry is higher than the wages they would possibly earn outside. 

E-commerce has also changed the local professional structure, attracting more people to engage in the sector.

"Locals under age 50 do not work in the fields anymore, because working in the local e-commerce industry or the short-video industry gets them more money," Li said. 

The emergence of e-commerce has changed Li's life, while also providing about 140 decent job opportunities to the locals. Ninety percent of the employees working in Li's factory are from the village.

"The thing that impresses me the most is that an ordinary person can become a hero through the industry...E-commerce provides ordinary people with an equal platform to start a business just like those with money," he said. 

Reporter(s): Li Yimei and Chen Yurong 

Video editing: Yan Meiyi

Cameraman: Sun Yibo