Calvin is an alumnus of NUS Business School, graduating with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration (Honours) with a major in Finance. Calvin was chosen for an exchange program to Peking University in his sophomore year. In his junior year, Calvin represented NUS in the prestigious NUS Overseas College Program where he was based in Shanghai throughout 2019, studying at Fudan University.
Calvin is currently the co-founder of The Young SEAkers, the first and only Southeast-Asia based non-profit focusing on youths with a China and ASEAN angle.
Hi all, Calvin here! Back with another article I will share on some of the cool consumer apps I have used while I was studying in China. (revolving around food, transportation and accommodation) 😊
E-payment: Wechat Pay and Alipay
In terms of Chinese apps that I miss the most now that I am back in Singapore, it has to be Wechat pay (from Tencent) and Alipay(from Alibaba). In terms of functionality, both does the same job of allowing their users to pay for literally EVERYTHING using their phones BUT I have both apps installed!
There are 3 reasons for this:
Firstly, I travel quite a lot when I was in China and Alipay has this additional function which allowed you to download the e-pass for the public transport of other cities. This is extremely useful for me because as a traveller on a budget, it is not very convenient to bring a bag full of coins or notes to purchase bus or MRT tickets! (Not to mention, I rarely use cash in China to begin with)
Secondly, merchants use both platforms for promotions (eg: rebates in the form of red packets), hence, for bargain hunters, it is vital to have both!
Lastly, I travel within the city riding the shared bicycle service and I subscribed for a quarterly pass on Hellobike. I can access Hellobike directly on Alipay which makes it super convenient!
All said, in terms of general usage, I used WeChat pay more because I am perpetually using WeChat as my primary messaging tool.
Note: for foreigners who want to use WeChat pay or Alipay, one has to set up a bank account in China first to link the bank ATM card with your mobile wallet
The other app that I used in China was food delivery apps such as eleme and meituan. The primary reason because there are so many different deals on this app, purchasing food is not only convenient but also super affordable vis a vis to visiting restaurants. It is quite amazing via economies of scale, how these food delivery vendors are able to keep delivery costs low (think 0 delivery cost-2 yuan)
While many of my friends opted to rent an apartment from landlords directly, I decided to try out Ziroom, one of the largest O2O company that provides professional housing asset management services. Basically, they serve as an intermediary between the renters and the landlords by providing additional services for both ends of the users.
For instance, for the renter side, I am provided with a fully furnished house and I have an app and a housekeeper that is assigned to my condominium. Through this app, I am able to pay for my house rental, change the password to my house lock, report any issues that require fixing (wifi, tap, toilet etc, help will come within 24 hours), and book an appointment for housekeeping services (comes together as a package).
I truly enjoyed the amenities and services that came with it, this O2O service offering has made my life a breeze, the whole process is very clear cut with no hidden terms and conditions. Start-ups such as ziroom has truly disrupted a traditional industry and given users such as me new options and possibilities in this opaque process of the house rental.
For e-commerce, the main app I used for consumer goods is definitely Taobao, I buy everything from toiletries to fruits on Taobao, and delivery usually reaches my house in 48 hours no matter how far-flung the company is.
On a side note, I would also like to mention how hypermarkets are stepping up their game with regards to e-commerce. For instance, Walmart in China has a mobile app which allows users to purchase what they need online and offer free delivery above 88yuan, which to be honest is not difficult to hit. Not only do they offer same-day delivery, but they are also able to deliver it to you within an hour of placing the order! All this convenience has allowed me to plan my day better where I can place an order of groceries when I leave office and time it to arrive at just the right moment when I reach home. #efficiency
In the next article, I will share some of the interesting food I tried in China from the various provinces that I visited either for work or for leisure. The food culture is extremely diverse across the different provinces and I am super excited to share more (8 Great Cuisines of China.). Thank you for reading!