I often have new business ideas, but do not have the resources to work on them. A few days ago I had dinner with a manager of Carrefour. I told him that one of the things I hate about shopping there are the lines for the cashier (especially on weekends) and the wait for a taxi (up to 1 hour sometimes – almost a reason to buy a car, which is useless for any other purposes in Shanghai). For that reason I hardly go there anymore, only when I really need certain products that only Carrefour sells.
So I asked him if online shopping is not something Carrefour could introduce here. He said it is not something they are currenlty considering. As far as I know it does not exist yet. Some western style supermarkets deliver (City Supermarket), but I am not aware of any websites where you can order groceries. With cheap kuaidi (delivery) services, it should be so easy to set up.
How would I do it? Talk with the three giants in the Shanghai market – Carrefour, Wal-Mart and Metro and see if they are willing to cooperate. Set up a website with the products you can supply, with prices 10% above regular shop prices. Preferably on the site of one of the shopping giants, but stand-alone is also OK. Then find a reliable kuadi company (there are many) to work with. They can charge the client the delivery costs, or you can have a system that delivery is for free over RMB 400 (incentive to buy more!) and pay the kuadi yourself. Seems easy to set up, why has nobody done this so far?
Is there a market for this? I think so. Of course I am aware that Shanghainese are extremely price sensitive. But then again, if you have time constraints and money is not a real issue anymore (as it is for many double income – no kids families) there should be a target group willing to pay for this. I asked several of my friends, and easily found a couple of them who would love to be able to shop for groceries in this way.
(picture: long lines at Wal-Mart Shanghai on its opening day, source: Yahoo News)
UPDATE: A reader sent me a mail saying that City Supermarket also takes orders by phone, fax and email, but does not have a website with all its products. However, if you know what you want you can contact them and they will deliver. Click here for more information.
Carrefour in Beijing offers “online” ordering. Well, it’s not really online. They send you a html file with all products available, you fill in the list and send it as an attachment by e-mail. Minimum purchase is 500 kuai. I’ve been using it for the last year and it works 100%.