In 2018, Jin Guowei was heavily indebted, peddling fruit to tourists in the streets of Lijiang, Yunnan. Now he’s Brother Pomegranate, an Internet sensation with 7.3 million followers and 300 million yuan ($46 million) of sales in 2020. He once sold 6 million yuan worth of pomegranates in 20 minutes.
That is indicative of the growing trend of rural entrepreneurship in China. Farmers and agricultural vendors in remote provinces sell goods directly to urban consumers via interactive livestreams and bite-sized videos. Revenues generated by rural content creators on ByteDance Ltd.’s Douyin -- TikTok’s Chinese twin -- have grown 15-fold year-on-year, the company reported.
To transport their produce, farmers still have to rely on the logistics arms of big e-commerce companies like JD Logistics or Alibaba’s Cainiao, or use specialists such as SF Express. Selling direct exposes them to more risk, especially from customers who demand a refund for damaged goods. Growing competition and higher costs for refrigerated delivery have also eroded margins, but the gains from increased orders and a loyal customer base more than compensate for the trouble.