Economic review

Teahouse links entrepreneurs with companies

2017-12-04 11:26:00 (Beijing Time)         China Daily

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A local garment producer in Jiaxing uses internet technologies in its process management. (Photo by Bei Jing/For China Daily)

Fashion designer Lu Lyuzhu spent much of the first two decades of her career traveling around the world for business, attending exhibitions and fashion shows.

"Then I just wanted to settle down somewhere," said Lu, 42, whose hometown is in Baotou in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

Lu became a woolen garment designer in 1995 after graduating from Tsinghua University.

The hope for a slower pace of life led her to Wuzhen in Tongxiang, Zhejiang province, a riverside town with a history of more than 1,000 years.

In Wuzhen, which is the permanent host of the annual World Internet Conference, the designer soon found huge opportunities. Tongxiang has long been the country's largest production center for woolen garments and other types of clothes.

Woolen clothes from Tongxiang currently account for about 70 percent of the domestic market share.

"In earlier years, the clothes produced here were considered of high quality mainly because of their wool content," said Lu.

Most of the local garment makers are family firms.

"People didn't pay much attention to design at first because they could still make their businesses profitable without such efforts. In recent years, they realized that design has become increasingly important in their operations," she said.

Some larger companies now attach greater importance to design and have built their own design teams, while most of the small producers cannot afford to employ their own designers, according to Lu.

She came up with an idea to create an online platform last year to help producers to cope with the changing market.

The idea didn't turn into reality until she met Fu Qian, who runs a new type of incubation center for startups, such as Lu's company, Fuhuizizai.

Fu named his incubation center Fengqi Teahouse, which incorporates both a teahouse and an online cloud platform.

"Taking advantage of internet technologies, the incubation center aims to link startups with capital, technology, human resources and other resources at home and abroad, and offers integrated support for entrepreneurship," Fu said.

Since it settled in Wuzhen in October 2015, Fengqi Teahouse has incubated more than 40 companies, with Lu's company being one of them.

Fengqi has been helping those whose business relies on smart technologies.

With Fu's financial support and technological guidance, Lu's company has been operating an online platform that was designed to serve multiple purposes.

"First, it is a platform for educating factory owners about fashion trends and helping to improve their awareness of good design, as many talented designers have been available for the online courses," Lu said.

"Second, it is also an exhibition platform that helps to promote good design to more people, especially in the garment production industry," she said, adding that it is also a platform for marketing.

Other companies incubated by Fengqi include the locally based Huateng Husbandry. The company uses cameras and smartphone apps to track the process of pork production.

"We are glad to see that nowadays there are more people starting their businesses with the help of smart technologies and online platforms, which breaks the limitations of physical locations and distances," Fu said.

The Fengqi Teahouse incubation center has received an investment of 870 million yuan ($131.6 million) from Ping An Real Estate, a subsidiary of Ping An Insurance Co.