Jacqueline Lam, Mihaibao
Above: Mihaibao's Jacqueline Lam is making it easier for Chinese consumers to buy Western brands.
No-one could accuse e-commerce platform Mihaibao and its co-founder, Jacqueline Lam, of lacking ambition.
The company is targeting the huge ‘grey market’ created when middle class Chinese consumers try to buy upmarket Western brands, often by asking friends and relatives to bring them back to China from overseas trips.
Chinese consumers have low levels of trust in the country’s retailers, fearing they will be sold counterfeits of Western brands.
However, Western companies often don’t have the knowledge and skills to understand Chinese shoppers’ needs and preferences, or to make shipping and payment straightforward.
Mihaibao is designed to ease the process in the fashion market by giving Chinese shoppers access to desirable Western fashion labels and ensuring payment can be made in local currency and the correct Chinese duties are paid on goods shipped from the West.
It does not hold any stock. Rather, it is a portal where Chinese buyers can buy directly from the Western companies via the Mihaibao platform which handles shipping, ecommerce, tax compliance and other issues, and takes a percentage of the sale.
The idea for the company developed after earlier start-up business models investigated by Lam failed to gain traction.
The startup was co-founded by Lam along with Dainius Dulinskas, and Jonas Simkus, and is headquartered in London with an office in Shanghai.
Lam and her co-founders received seed funding as part of the Sheffield Dot.Forge incubator in a programme co-funded by Creative England, the Sheffield Local Enterprise Partnership and local business angels.
She benefited from UKTI support and follow up investment of £50,000 from Creative England before securing private sector investment to help scale up her company.
Investors for this seed round include board director John Wu Jiong, an angel investor and former Alibaba CTO; Steve Lau, managing director at Draper Fisher Jurvetson China and Dave McClure, founder at 500 Startups.
Alastair Mitchell, founder and former CEO of Huddle, has joined Mihaibao as chairman and investor. The company has also received support from PayPal and the British Royal Family through Prince William.
Mihaibao is currently focusing on fashion, but has long-term ambitions to expand into other industries.
Lam believes that tastes are changing within the Chinese middle classes, which is becoming more diverse, with buyers looking for more distinctive goods from emerging designers.
She has also developed a public profile, speaking on the Chinese market, as well as the position of women in technology.
Mihaibao places a strong emphasis on the need to have a company culture and staff that understand both the needs of the Chinese and the Western markets.
In an interview with Business Insider, Lam said: "I'm determined to change the world’s perception from 'made in China' to 'made for China’. Global companies can't claim they are global if China is not part of their core strategy.
“Too many companies and entrepreneurs are taking China for granted. Just a little reminder, China's online population is over 2.5 times the total US population."