China Focus: Emoji economy inspires startup culture among youngsters

Source:Xinhua Published: 2019/1/16 8:18:18

The popular "Cheer-up Duck" emoji series on China's popular social media platform WeChat has continued its popularity with the images being designed into creative spin-off products and sold online.

Hu Liwei is in his twenties and owns the IP for a number of the hottest WeChat emojis, including Cheer-up Duck. He started his online Taobao store Twisted Melon (Waigua) in China's prosperous southeastern city of Fuzhou in 2014, selling emoji-related products.

The most sought-after product in Hu's store is a cross-body bag designed from Cheer-up Duck. The first three days of the bag's pre-sale saw over 5,000 orders, according to Hu. OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS ONCE

Hu is a competitive player among a growing number of Chinese youngsters eyeing opportunities in the emoji economy and getting their ideas and products perfect right out of the gate.

Twisted Melon has over 620,000 followers on Taobao and its annual sales volume has stabilized at around 30 million yuan (about 4.4 million US dollars), Hu said.

The young businessman's quick response to the online hit contributed to his success.

"Network effect is sometimes a flash in the pan, so we must act quickly to make good use of it," Hu said. Over 30 percent of his nearly 100 employees are quick-witted designers with exciting ideas.

Low prices help Hu attract customers. Most of the products in Twisted Melon are under 100 yuan (around 15 US dollars). There are over 200 products in his store range from bags and dolls to pajamas and headsets.

The majority Hu's customers are students aged 15 to 25, often considered the most active group among China's online community.

For youngsters, emojis are not only symbols of communication, but also a way to distinguish their thoughts and personalities from others.

This is part of the reason why the emoji economy has been gaining momentum in China over the years, a consensus widely shared among young entrepreneurs.

They are also convinced that a lively cyberculture will continue to boom in the years to come.

There are nearly 400,000 emoji-related products sold on Taobao, covering a wide range of products such as comics and cartoons, toys, digital products, clothes and furniture.

Most popular emoji images have been recreated into spin-off products by product design teams like Hu's, available on Taobao and other online shopping platforms. PRIORITY ISSUE: INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS

In recent years, China has also witnessed a boom in animation, comic, game and novel (ACGN) products, sometimes known as two-dimensional culture.

With similar business models to the emoji economy, China's ACGN industries realize commercial returns via charging for content, IP licensing and spin-off products.

During last year's annual shopping spree, sales of ACGN-related products on Taobao grew by nearly 90 percent over the previous year, and over half of the buyers were born after 1995.

As cyberculture consumption rises in China, relevant intellectual property rights have been enhanced.

As one of China's biggest e-commerce players, Taobao provides IP licensing services between ACGN companies and Taobao stores.

The e-commerce giant has also set up a platform to support made-in-China cartoons and import overseas IP products since December.

Twisted Melon's latest best sellers are designed according to a popular kitten emoji series with sales totaling nearly 4 million yuan, according to Hu. The store was also authorized by Peppa Pig in late December to launch a series of spin-off products to celebrate 2019, China's Year of Pig.


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