Tabao Villages

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Bert Hofman (World Bank):

"I visited some of the Tabao villages yesterday and was impressed with the rapid development that e-commerce has triggered in Shuyang County and Jiangsu Province. Indeed, Jiangsu was the cradle of the Tabao Villages, and is at the forefront of its expansion.

Take Dongfeng village in Shaji town for example. In 2006, one migrant from the village returned to open an online shop to sell simple furniture. His success encouraged other villagers to do likewise, and by the end of 2010, the village had 6 board processing factories, 2 metal parts factories, 15 logistics and shipping companies, and 7 computer stores serving 400 households engaged in online sales throughout China and even in neighboring countries.

Tabao promotes inclusion of remote and poor areas into the modern economy. While the economies of China’s coastal cities have grown rapidly over the last three decades, rural and western parts of the country have lagged behind.

But China’s large investments in rural connectivity are beginning to pay off. More than 90 percent of villages had fixed broadband access by the end of 2015—which creates an enormous opportunity to further expand the number of Taobao villages—and Alibaba and other online platforms are working on exactly this.

Online commerce has allowed producers in towns and villages to participate in the national and even the global economy. At the end of 2015 there were some 780 Tabao villages—here in Shuyang country alone there are 22. [And we just heard the latest number is now over 1000 villages.]

At the end of 2014, there were more than 70,000 online merchants in those villages, and many more in other rural areas. Most of the merchants are small, with an average of 2.5 employees. Four in 10 owners are female, and one-fifth were previously unemployed. And about 1 percent are persons with disabilities. Indeed, one of Alibaba’s top “netpreneurs,” confined to a wheelchair after an accident built a thriving online business."