Source: From China Daily Author: Gary Date: 2007-11-22
Located in the middle of East China's Zhejiang Province, Yiwu is known as the largest business center of small commodities in Asia. There is not much cultivated land availablein the city, with an area of 1,105 square kilometers. So, in the past local peole had to go to neighboring cities to conduct business.
The stereotype of a Yiwu vendor at that time is someone carrying two buckets of small goods-sugar, candy and embroidery needles for instance-on a bamboo-made shoulder pole, banging a small drum to attract attention.
A market named the YIwu Small Commodity City was set up by the local government in 1982, in aim to make the city an international business center.
Now, the market of Yiwu is one of 20 markets spread over the city, with 58,000 booths andan area of around 2 million square meters. The main markets offer arts and crafts, Candles, gardening equipment, umbrellas, artificial flowers,stationery, sport and leisure products, shoes, clocks and watches, toys, ketchen and bathroom hardware,jewelry, leather products , tissues and socks. More than 400,000 items are classified under 1,902 different categories.
Yiwu has become a paradise for traders from all over the world, with up to 200,000 visitors per day on average.
It is also the country's biggest export center of small commodities. Every day over 1,000 containers leave the city bound for overseas markets. The total value of export in 2005 rocketed to $1 billion, up from $40 million in 1999.
Jin Guojun is always the youngest delegate of local enterprisers when he attends government meetings in Yiwu.
The 30-year-old multimillionaire doesn't have the experience of selling small commodities nationwide to accumulate capital as a great many elder enterprisers did in the past. Nor has he become affluent by buying and selling booths at a popular market.
Instead, he entered business after taking over a bankrupted clothing factory from his parents in the late 1990s, with funds of no more than 15,000 yuan($200).
Jin explains Yiwu was famous for manufacturing shirts at that time, due to its location close to Shaoxing, a cloth material base in East China's Zhejiang Province.
However, the quality of the shirts was generally not good enough to establish any well-known brands in the country. At first, Jin found it difficult to expand his business, even though he received a certain amount of overseas orders every year.
Blessed with a good feel for the market, he introduced advanced sewing machines from Italy and Japan in 2003, to manufacture seamless underwear as well as fitneswear. It was then that his business turned the corner."I was in the second wave of local enterprisers switching to the business. But I never thought it is too late because I could learn something from the first wave to make things more successful,"he says.
Now, the young man has the largest factyory of seamless underwear in the city, with an annual output worth more than $20 million.
Yiwu has become the biggest manufacturing base of seamless underwear in the country, accounting for 80 percent of the national total, more than three times the figure in 2001, according to Jin. Despite owning six companies worldwide, the Yiwu native claims he is not really all that busy.
A professional team has been hired to help manage his business, enabling him to have more time to attend various business-oriented classes arranged by China's top learning institutions, such as Tsinghua and Zhejiang universites.
"My goal is not just making money, more importantly, it is about establishing my own brand and making it last forever" he says.
To show his support, Jin has gotten rid of all his Calvin Klein underwear, preferring to wear only his own brand. Soon he will setup a sales company in Shanghaii to promote the brand in a top grade market.
"To develop a good brand, the primary thing is credibility,and the second still, is credibility," he adds. Jin plans to list his company on the Hongking stock market within three years. He predicts more than 10 local enterprises will also be listed in the next few years.
"In general, Yiwu enterprises feature family business, and their starting points are quite low. Some enterprisers, expecially those aged above 50, just focus on immediate interests and have no long-term plans, making it difficult for the companies to become listed. I hope this situation changes," he says.