Startup in China / Mama Meng’s / Marxist Old Lady Apr19


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Startup in China / Mama Meng’s / Marxist Old Lady

Lets go digital, build up your own store connected to Taobao.
Entrepreneurship in the world’s second largest economy is not just a game for the young. Meng Fang Ning is in her 60s and owns and runs a successful online business selling snacks and other products to customers all over China.
Mama Meng became intrigued by the computer games her granddaughter was playing and decided to try playing some herself. She quickly became hooked. But Ms Meng’s daughter, Meng Yingqi, recalls that her mother wasn’t a very good player.
“She became a bit cranky because she kept losing. Sometimes she would stay up till 2 or 3am, just trying to win back the points she had lost,” she says.
So Meng Yingqi and her husband decided to encourage her mother to take up a more productive computer-based activity – such as launching an online business.
The only problem was that Ms Meng was very proud of her membership of the Communist Party, an organisation she’d belonged to for many years.
She says that when her daughter first approached her with the idea of starting a company, she told her: “Your mum has never done anything remotely related to business ever in her life, you are asking me to set up an internet store – you must be kidding!”
“I grew up in a planned economy,b ut when do you business, then you are taking money from other peoples’ pockets and putting it into your own – so the psychological change that I had to go through was pretty tough.” Nevertheless, Meng Yingqi continued to push the idea of founding an online company, telling her mother it would be a good way to keep active.
Ms Meng’s range has expanded to include more than 200 products
Ms Meng eventually decided to give the plan a try, and settled upon the idea of selling snacks and health food products online. She remembers the excitement of making her first sale.
“The deal was only for a few dozen yuan, but after I had finalised the sale, the satisfaction was overwhelming. I was so happy – it was so much more interesting than playing games. So I thought I should carry on doing it,” she says.
At first she only sold a small number of items but today the range has expanded to include more than 200 products, including things such as dried dates, Lingzhi mushrooms, and dried hawthorn slices.
Ms Meng chose the screen name of ‘Marxist Old Lady’, which she says makes clear to customers and business partners what her values are, one of the most important being honesty.
It’s not all been plain sailing. Ms Meng says she tries to maintain a high standard of customer service, but things don’t always work out the way she would like.
Her store is hosted by the huge Chinese e-commerce site Taobao, which operates a feedback and reputation system for both buyers and sellers. She remembers how one customer in a remote part of the country gave her a bad feedback rating of eight black flowers, because of a delivery delay.

At first, she says, she was angry, because she had worked hard on the order, trying to find a local delivery company who would promise to ensure the goods arrived on time. But she adds, “when I calmed down, I thought, if I was the buyer, and I needed to wait for so long for the products, I would be angry too”.

She wrote at length to the customer, apologising and explaining the steps she had taken in trying to get the delivery to him, and giving him a good feedback score. To her surprise the customer wrote back saying that now that he understood the situation, he would change his feedback for her from negative to positive.
Keep goin, Mama Meng.