Russian entrepreneurs find opportunities in China's digital boom

International Cooperation
In the booming city of Guangzhou, Aleksandr Yurlov has learned how to run business fast in China's digital boom.

XinhuaUpdated: October 10, 2017

In the booming city of Guangzhou, Aleksandr Yurlov has learned how to run business fast in China's digital boom.

The 30-year-old changed jobs 15 times in Russia before moving to China in 2014 to seek new business opportunities in the world's second-largest economy. Now he is running nine companies in Guangzhou with businesses ranging from plastic packaging to internet marketing services.

Born and bred in Perm, mid-west Russia, Yurlov read an article on the Chinese economy in a business magazine six years ago and has been fascinated by the country ever since.

"Moving to Guangzhou has greatly influenced my thoughts on business," he said, adding that the city offered new opportunities and helped him gain knowledge and experience in doing business.

During his first year in Guangzhou, he took full advantage of the city's digital infrastructure by setting up multiple websites and social media channels. He also visited exhibitions and trade fairs, which have helped him to understand how to work with Chinese business partners.

An avid user of Chinese social media, he was quick to realize the commercial value of WeChat, a popular instant messaging service. He soon set up a digital business providing internet marketing services on WeChat for Russian companies.

"Now I am a serial entrepreneur, and I know how to get projects running quickly," he said.

Yurlov said he decided to stay in China not only for its business potential, but also for its higher standard of living, safe social environment and convenient infrastructure.

"Everything is great. Life quality is better, with more shops, more places for travel and more things for enjoying life," he said.

With the rapid development of internet and information technology, the digital economy is a source of high growth in China, unleashing new opportunities for both Chinese and international companies.

China's digital economy surged 18.9 percent in 2016 to 22.6 trillion yuan (3.4 trillion U.S. dollars), according to the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

The expansion was much faster than that of China's overall economy, which grew 6.7 percent in 2016.

Yurlov is not the only foreign entrepreneur who has capitalized on China's digital boom. Vadim Krekotin, a 28-year-old entrepreneur from Vladivostok, also seized the opportunity.

In his office in central Guangzhou, Krekotin and his colleagues work on their latest startup project, StarFit, which offers customized fitness training courses through WeChat for Chinese users.

Krekotin came to China in 2010 and established two trading companies in south China, importing and exporting food, beverages, electronics and other fast-moving consumer goods between China, Russia and Europe. When his first two businesses stabilized, he decided to start StarFit.

In September, his team launched the StarFit fitness coaching service after spending four months developing a mini-app for the service on WeChat, where they provide individualized training programs and publish motivational articles, pictures and videos for subscribers.

He said that the personalized fitness service is a fast-growing trend in China as the younger generation are becoming more health conscious.

"China is a new market for fitness. Younger people care more about their health and appearance than their parents or even grandparents, and they are willing to spend time and money on fitness," he said.

"The Chinese government is also promoting fitness among its people, and related policies will be a great support for the fitness industry," the entrepreneur added.

Krekotin estimates his new digital service will attract about 7,000 users in a year.