Setting up business in expat friendly Shanghai

Published:  19 Jul at 6 PM
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Tagged: China, Euro
Shanghai’s popularity with expat start-ups is growing fast, but language difficulties and bureaucratic burdens make using an agency the best way forward.

Expat entrepreneurs are more than welcome in Shanghai, one of China’s largest conurbations, with contracted foreign capital totalling US$60 billion during 2015, an 86 per cent increase on the previous year. However, government regulations, language barriers and the understanding of an alien culture need to be overcome for a successful start to the venture.

Online business platforms are the flavour of the year here, with those aimed at the increasing number of English-speaking expats almost guaranteed to be successful. One such,, was the first of its kind to offer access to China’s two highly popular e-commerce sites, Tmall and TaoBao.

Previously, most expats could only dream of buying online in the way they used to before they left their home countries. Methods of payment were a major problem, especially with TaoBao, as easy-to-use solutions such as UnionPay and PayPal weren’t part of the site.

Of course, language gave a huge headache to prospective Western buyers, as the entire TaoBao site is in Chinese. In addition, the way the site is arranged is unlikely to appeal to Western tastes, and was a natural for conversion to a format which made it easy to use by expats.

The startup Baopals site gives access to all Tmall’s and TaoBao’s more than 800 million products, updated and translated in real-time, rearranged to suit Western tastes and linked with easy payment options as well as an English-speaking customer service team. A brilliant idea, now very successful, but at first a total headache as regards setting up the business until an agent was used.

Nowadays, most entrepreneurs hoping to succeed in China choose to have an agency take care of the nuts and bolts in order to save time and ensure everything is correct and totally legal. All new business owners need to do is submit the right amount of registered capital, provide legal papers and passport and sign various documents.
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