Background and Markets:
- People we want to help are those small businesses and individuals without computers but having cell phones. This could include farmers, peasants, rural entrepreneurs, small businesses both in rural and urban areas, laid-off individuals in the cities, etc.
- We want to target people whose incomes range from $1 – $5 per day. I categorize them as “poor and disadvantaged.” (this category constitutes of approximately 70% of Chinese population. Of course, not all of them have cell phones yet).
- There are about 280 millions cell phone users in China as for 2004. There are about 10 millions registered SMEs (small and medium enterprises) in China.
Solutions and Services:
- We want to focus on helping these small businesses and individuals to sell their products through Internet marketplace such as eBay, Alibaba, Yahoo! etc. by using cell phones with SMS technology so that they can grow their businesses and generate incomes.
- The products could include anything from agricultural products, to handicraft, to raw materials, toys, clothes, furniture, electronics, home appliances and machinery, etc. The products are more likely to be labor-intensive rather than capital and technology-intensive.
- I propose we use both SMS and WAP technologies so people can choose whether to post their products with pictures or simply with plain text descriptions. We probably need to identify which products can be posted without pictures.
- Given the fact that many people have cell phones without computers, I think we should also consider the case of people buying though cell phones, although this might be our second priority. We can target different income group that has some purchasing power.
Issues and Challenges:
- Whether eBay and other Internet marketplace are open for mobile interface and willing to handle SMS postings.
- Whether people are willing to buy products that have a few lines of descriptions (How about poeple sell products on newspapers with classified ads?)
- eBay doesn’t necessarily have a “rural market,” the product listings are more tailored toward developed countries (even eBay China site). Whether eBay is willing to expand their categorization to include products from developing countries.
- We need to think about either setting up new categories such as “agricultural products”, or opening a “rural market” on eBay or somewhere else.
- In general, payment will be an issue in China and other developing countries. Options are: prepaid accounts, prepaid cards, billing to phone companies, prepaid software that enable SMS.
We also talked about “auction drop,” more specialized online markets. My inclination is to go for eBay model – let people sell anything they want rather than focus on specific markets.