Ten-year-old Taobao shaping Chinese lifestyles

Updated: 2013-05-09 23:46


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HANGZHOU - While waiting for the subway, Beijing citizen Lin Jun fishes out his mobile phone and places an order for 50 face masks via Taobao, a consumer-to-consumer (C2C) portal similar to eBay, with only a few clicks.

The masks, which he uses almost every day now in the sandy spring, are expected to be brought to his home by a delivery man the following day.

Lin bought masks around the same time 10 years ago, when the city was shrouded in panic over the SARS epidemic. But buying such commodities was never as easy as it is now.

On Friday, taobao.com, the country's largest online shopping site,  will celebrate its 10th anniversary since its establishment in the eastern city of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.

Over the decade, e-commerce spearheaded by Taobao as well as other sites like dangdang.com and 360buy.com has gained a strong foothold in the Chinese market, ushering in a new mode of shopping, particularly among tech-savvy youngsters.

"I can not separate myself from Taobao now. It is becoming a lifestyle, or it is life itself," said Mei Xiao, a civil servant in Wuhan, Hubei province.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Commerce, it is estimated that China's online commerce industry raked in more than 1.1 trillion yuan (about 175 billion U.S. dollars) in revenue in 2012, up from 25.8 billion yuan in 2006.

Taobao alone features nearly one billion products and has nearly 500 million registered users. It sells 48,000 products each minute and its maximum daily turnover reached 4.38 billion yuan, according to taobao.com.

Taobao's parent company, Alibaba Group, also owns Tmall, a popular business-to-consumer (B2C) portal like Amazon.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma announced early this year that he would step down from the CEO post, and his successor is scheduled to be named on Friday. But he will continue to serve as chairman, responsible for making strategic decisions for the board of directors.


As the country's largest online shopping platform, Taobao brings not only a new lifestyle for shoppers but also tremendous work opportunities  for the country's huge number of job seekers.

It has more than 8 million online vendors who create jobs for over 10 million, most of whom are self-employed.

The platform has also benefited more than 30,000 disabled, who would otherwise have more difficulty in finding a job.

Gu Linglei, a blind young man in Hangzhou, has to resort to software that reads screen content to communicate with his online customers.

Nevertheless, Gu has so far clinched more than 4,000 deals, mostly digital products and phone cards.

Booming e-commerce also boosted the fast growth of China's delivery business, with the number of delivery men in the country expected to reach 1 million by the year 2015.

Taobao delivers 20 million parcels every day, accounting for 70 percent of the country's total.

Jack Ma is considering building up an even bigger logistics network that will be capable of delivering 200 million parcels daily with sales revenue up to 30 billion yuan.

"No matter where you are, the goods will be delivered to your home within 24 hours after you place an order. This is what we are trying to achieve," he said.

Taobao never stops exploring new business opportunities.

Last month, parent company Alibaba invested 586 million dollars to purchase an 18-percent share of Weibo Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of Sina Corp., the country's leading online media company. The Twitter-like Weibo is China's most influential social media outlet.

The two companies will cooperate in various areas such as user account connectivity, data exchange, online payment and online marketing, according to company sources.

They will also explore new business models for social commerce based on the interactions of users on Weibo and on Alibaba's e-commerce platforms, the sources said.