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Student grows fresh startup

OFFICE workers often find it difficult to buy fresh and cheap vegetables as Shanghai's wet markets are usually closed by the time they get off work.

After viewing a TV program about the issue, Liu Taichuan, a Jilin Province student who graduated from a local university last year, decided to launch a Website to sell fresh produce online.

Liu got 100,000 yuan (US$14,615) from the Shanghai Technology Entrepreneurship Foundation for Graduates for his business idea and was among the first batch of students granted favorable tax and subsidy policies by local industrial and commercial authorities.

The East China University of Science and Technology graduate had long cherished the idea of starting his own business.

"The city is full of business opportunities," he said. "That's why I decided to apply for a Shanghai university place."

Liu left his hometown for the city five years ago and attended lectures given by successful business people and learnt the basics of finance and marketing in addition to his studies as a physics student.

Last May, Liu and several fellow students launched a Website to sell vegetables and fruit to residents in the Caoyang area of Putuo District. They received more than 400 orders in a four-month pilot run.

But his friends gave up the business to find work elsewhere. "They were looking for jobs as we were launching the business," Liu said.

He took on sole responsibility of receiving orders, purchasing, packaging and delivery last summer.

He now mainly focuses his business on students and teachers at his former university and areas around the school in Xuhui District.

He has developed ties with two large wholesale markets and aims to extend his business to Putuo, Changning, Zhabei and other urban districts next month.

Expert's advice:

Wan Zaikui, instructor of the Shanghai Youth Entrepreneurship Campaign

Though there is no doubt a huge market for the new business, Lou has competitors. Several similar Websites have been launched recently.

Liu, as a recent graduate, should take full advantage of campus resources and government support. Liu could transplant the current business model into other local universities first before extending his business to other districts.

The delivery cost will be hard to control and the freshness of fruit and vegetables may be spoiled in transportation.


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