Chance encounter

Updated: 2013-03-01 07:08

By Zhang Lei (China Daily)

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 Chance encounter

Juan Cordoba believes Beijing has the potential to become one of the world's major destinations for top artists. Provided to China Daily

Unhappy with medical school, a conversation about life in China led Juan Cordoba to drop out of his studies and head for a new life half way around the world

In 2009 Juan Cordoba was an unhappy med school student, when a chance meeting with a Turkish girl who had lived in China for a year changed the course of his life.

She talked about her time in China and sparked in the 26-year-old Colombian a decision to quit his studies and move there.

Recalling his med school time, Cordoba says, "Like most things in life, it is hard when you don't really like it. If you were the type of kid that used to check all his toys to see if they were sick, it would probably be easier than it was for me."

Still, the decision to leave and move half way around the world wasn't simple.

"I knew I wanted to leave Colombia in search of new opportunities," says Cordoba. "I grew up in Miami, so that was my first option, but the whole idea of traveling to the other side of the world, learning a new language, living in a new culture, and starting from scratch is what helped me decide that China was the best option."

Like many expatriates who head to Beijing, he started out studying Mandarin at a language institute in Wudaokou, a part of the city teeming with schools.

A year in and he had begun to indulge his passion for music as a Wednesday night DJ at Pyro Pizza.

"I've been doing it since then, it is a wonderful hobby," he says. "The idea of being part of bigger events is what led me to start looking for more. I started selling tickets for big parties and that's when my friends and I noticed there was a good opportunity to reach all those people that we were selling tickets to. That's when some friends and I decided to create sendmetickets."

Sendmetickets is Beijing's first expatriate ticket system, according to Cordoba. It was born out of the difficulty expats in China's capital had getting tickets to concerts, sporting events, parties, festivals, the theater and for tours, and has since catered to thousands of customers.

"This keeps us busy and it keeps us going," says Cordoba. "Revenue is based on the amount of tickets we sell and deliveries we do. In order to do this, we always have to have events online that we can offer tickets for. Expanding the business is all about posting more events online, expanding our market and making more people happy.

"Another thing about this job is that I've had the chance to meet really nice people and this is something that always motivates us to keep working hard."

While it was Cordoba's first crack at the ticket sales business in China, he had previous experience in his home country.

"Every time a big DJ would have a party, I'd be selling tickets to all my friends," he says.

"The cool thing about that was that I would get my ticket for free. I sold tickets for artists like Tiesto, Paul Van Dyk, Juanes and even Shakira."

Besides selling tickets, since high school he had worked in call centers, restaurants, taught English, and sold his mother's artwork.

"All these experiences had simply helped me understand the importance of working hard," he says.

"I'm not sure how I can relate them to the person I am now. But I can say that those jobs let me believe that when you treat people nicely, they'll do the same to you. I understood more about social relationships and how to maintain them. They gave me an idea of how to deal with customer satisfaction. That's quite important when you're dealing with people's tickets."

Cordoba first sold tickets for the Black Rabbit and Strawberry festivals in Beijing, and through these forged connections with other event organizers.

"One of our first partners was Street Hustle," he says. "We first worked with them selling tickets for Simple Plan, Cazzette, Miss Nine, Bass Kleph and Sean Kingston. They're probably one of the most influential event organizers we've had. They've always given us a really good hand, and if I'd have to mention one company, it would definitely be them."

He believes customers appreciate a door delivery service.

"I've been that person that has a hard time buying the ticket for a concert for one of his favorite artists," he says. "I know how hard it can be to be in the first row when the place is packed and everybody's pushing. I know how annoying it can be to wait in line to have your coats checked or get them back. Ever since we started working with events, these annoying things have magically disappeared. I've also had the chance to meet artists that I've been listening to since I was a teenager."

Cordoba believes Beijing has the potential to become one of the world's major destinations for top artists if policies are changed.

"Beijing is in charge of the cultural part," he says. "Artists want to come to Beijing, they want to visit the Great Wall, and they want to see the crowd. But Beijing is also the governmental base of China. Getting permits for a concert is much harder than in Shanghai.

"Last year was the perfect example of this. The months leading up to the major government changes were very quiet in terms of parties and concerts in the capital. Meanwhile, event organizers in Shanghai were having a feast. I mean, Maroon 5 was in China but couldn't have a show in Beijing, only Shanghai."

These restrictions have affected the ticket business and Beijing's potential to become a venue for big international artists, he believes, with Shanghai profiting where Beijing loses out.

Sendmetickets isn't just a sales business, he adds. It also has strong relationships with event organizers and sometimes access to the artists.

"Sendmetickets has a very good relationship with many event organizers and promoters who are always keeping us up to date with everything," he says.

"It's probable that we'll find out about an event before the magazines and media find out. They guarantee that we will be the first to start selling tickets and that we might even be able to meet the artists. So it's literally a chance to be backstage for us."

Despite making a life in Beijing, Cordoba is still strongly tied to home in Colombia and goes back twice a year.

"My parents were always very supportive," he says. "They've always told me that it's important to like what you're doing. I really owe it all to them and their support."

(China Daily 03/01/2013 page21)