While a handful of expat entrepreneurs try to bring innovation from their country to China, this startup builds on the success of one of China’s largest companies and adapts it to expat tastes.

Taobao, one of the largest consumer-to-consumer e-commerce platforms in the world, lets users buy all kinds of products, such as clothes, gadgets, and even temporary boyfriends.

However, the website is only available in Chinese, which makes it difficult for foreigners to purchase and browse items. There are are also various other barriers to foreigners such as communicating with sellers and delivery men, and figuring out payment options.

“China doesn’t have a reputation for quality products and services. We want to show how amazing e-commerce is now in China,” Jay Thornhill, the co-founder of Baopals, told TechNode.

Founded in May 2016 by three expats, Baopals is a website and WeChat platform linking expats to more than 800 million products from Taobao and Tmall, Alibaba’s B2C e-commerce platform. The company doesn’t manage its own product inventory. Instead, it works as a platform to automatically translate pages into English and bridge the gap between expats and Taobao goods.

“We never came to China with the intention of starting Baopals,” says Charlie Erickson, the co-founder of Baopals.  “However, the more we stayed here, the more we realized the need for this service. It’s the market that we know since we’re expats.”

Alibaba also serves foreign shoppers with AliExpress, the retail arm of Alibaba, which provides a gateway to buy wholesale goods directly from Chinese suppliers.

“Alibaba has AliExpress. However, it’s not serving customers within China,” Mr. Erickson told TechNode.

“On the international scene, there’s still an issue regarding trust and reliability of Chinese products,” he says.

Baopals currently accepts Alipay, WeChat Wallet, and China UnionPay as payment methods and is hoping to integrate international payments in the future. The company takes a commission fee on transactions.

Image Credit: Baopals

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Eva Yoo

Eva Yoo is Shanghai-based tech writer. Reach her at evayoo@technode.com

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