Student creates online business by selling goods from Taobao

Updated: 2013-03-23 10:09

By Mike Peters (China Daily)

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Student creates online business by selling goods from Taobao

Anastasia Kovaleva (right) greets a Vivatao customer at the company's store in Kaliningrad, Russia. Provided to China Daily

When Anastasia Kovaleva was growing up in Blagoveschensk, Russia, she could almost see China from her front door.

"It's right across the border from Heihe, in Heilongjiang province," she said. "They are only divided by a river."

In fact, the two cities have formed an informal trading zone, and citizens can pass freely from one to the other for up to 30 days without a visa.

"Many schools offer Chinese studies in my hometown," she said. Thanks to that proximity, and her degree in international economics, Kovaleva said she knew that China would be part of her future career.

But while studying advanced-level Mandarin at Beijing Language and Culture University, she saw many expats seizing opportunities to be entrepreneurs. She was excited about the prospect of working for herself, instead of a company.

At that time, she was also buying things for friends back home on Taobao, China's largest online shopping network. Before long she was placing orders for friends of friends of friends, and she suddenly realized she had a business in her hands.

She enlisted a Russian partner back home, and Vivatao was born. The website is a virtual mirror of Taobao, but in the Russian language.

"You can buy anything that's on Taobao," she said.

Five years later, Vivatao is a huge customer for Taobao. Kovaleva has 30 employees and a 20,000-square-meter warehouse in Beijing. Business tends to have seasonal cycles - the peak month came earlier this year, when shoppers for the Russian New Year holiday generated orders totaling 10 metric tons of merchandise.

If that sounds like a lot, it's all the more manageable than it was when Kovaleva was shuttling packages in and out of her apartment for friends back home.

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