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The e-commerce start-up by Fudan's mozambican student

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fudan.edu.cn | Updated: Sept 24, 2021

In 2017, the United Nations announced June 27 as the Micro-, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Day to raise public awareness of their contribution to sustainable development and the global economy. Around the same time, a Fudan freshman student from Mozambique started his e-commerce business with his two partners in a 20 square-meter office on Fudan campus. Let’s hear the story of Hilton Michel Rogerio Mausse who is graduating from Fudan’s School of International Cultural Exchange this year.

Would you like to introduce your e-commerce business?

My business is a cross-border e-commerce shopping website called Mozbuy that connects Chinese vendors and products with Mozambican customers. Our target customers are middle- and high-income class in Mozambique. They have a large need of quality and less costly products from China. With six months’ preparation, Mozbuy went online in early 2018. At first, we cooperated with Chinese vendors and sold their products on our website. Now we have opened the registration portal for eligible Chinese vendors to open and run their shops on Mozbuy by themselves. We also offer professional advice to the vendors on how to promote and sell their products. We aim to satisfy the growing need of Mozambicans for better livelihood and help Chinese brands expand their overseas markets.

Currently, about 3,000 products are listed on Mozbuy. We are not trying to put every product in China on the shelf. Instead, we carefully select the ones that are most popular among Mozambicans, such as digital devices like computers, mobile phones and phone accessories, as well as beauty products like lipsticks and skin care products. Now we have 15 staff members, 5 based in China and 10 based in Africa, among which 5 African employees are working with us on a part-time basis.

How did you start your business in Fudan?

I was attracted by and amazed at China’s fast development in the high-tech section and the people I knew back in Mozambique would travel to China a few times in a year just to bring back these good products made in China. I thought, why don’t I help them save the expense of traveling and accommodation so that they can have more of these products they want?

That’s how I came up with this idea of starting an e-commerce website to connect China and Mozambique.

So, I started the business with a Mozambican friend of mine in a 20-square-meter office provided by Fudan’s School of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

We were offered free rent for a year and the staff at the School gave us a lot of advice. The School invites successful entrepreneurs and experts to share relevant information and favorable policies of the local government on a regular basis. With a thorough and promising business plan, we received funding from both the School and Yangpu District Government of Shanghai.

I still remember my Chinese was so poor and I missed home terribly when I just arrived at Fudan, but the teachers and students in Fudan gave me much help, which made me feel warm. In my first two years in Fudan, the coursework was quite heavy and it felt like that apart from quickly grabbing a meal and going to sleep, I was either working or studying and I often worked late into the night, sometimes till the early morning. Now, I think all these efforts are worthwhile. I was able to reach all kinds of resources and get all the help I needed through the university. It was like the very first cornerstone of my business had already been set for me.

The website is doing quite well now, but did the pandemic give your business a blow and how did you respond?

Yes, indeed the year 2020 was quite difficult for us. But we made it. China was the first to close down its border to prevent virus transmission, but the Chinese products were still allowed to be shipped outbound. But with a fast growing number of cases found in Africa, countries including Mozambique closed its border and that became a headache for us. Neither the Chinese vendors could ship their products nor the Mozambican customers could receive their products. We spent a lot of time and effort communicating with them to keep them in the loop of what the difficulties were and make full refunds for our customers.

This year, our business has taken a turn. For the time being, we are updating Mozbuy to cater to the need of more customers. I think one of our advantages among all product and service trading platform between China and Mozambique is that we are very localized. We listen to our customers in Mozambique. We understand what our customers need because we have many Mozambican members at the core of the team. It’s been three years since the website was launched, the society and what people like have changed a lot.

Based on the feedback from our customers, colleagues and friends, we redesigned Mozbuy to offer more functions and easier access to these functions for both our vendors and customers.

What advice do you have for young people eager to start their business?

Do something others will not and cannot do. Do not follow the crowd blindly.

You need to have a detailed plan, persist with what you do, reflect on your experience and make timely adjustments. Do not only focus on what is happening today, do some forward thinking for what may happen in the future.

Also, you need to be brave to do something nobody has done before and lead the world in that area.

A lot of people say it is best to start your business after you turn 30 because only by then will you have gained enough life experience. But I don’t think it’s true. I started my business when I was just a freshman. I don’t think age matters that much. Many young people are interested in being an entrepreneur but never put their words into actions, because they are afraid of failure. Yes, it is possible to fail when starting a business, but if you don’t try, you may never know what you can achieve. I think it also might be a good choice that you start your business at a young age, so that you can learn from your mistakes and improve fast. Even if you want to give up one day, the experience you gained and the trail you blazed are important assets for other people who wish to carry on your work. And your ultimate goal of making the world a better place and improving people’s lives will be met.

What’s your short-term and long-term goals for your business and for yourself?

In fact, we plan to branch out from Mozambique to three or four neighboring African countries and we are extending Mozbuy’s service to one of these countries hopefully next year. So at the time being, we are doing some market research to decide which one we should go with first.

In the long term, I want to make Fudan proud. I hope Africans can get good Chinese products from Mozbuy and enjoy a better life. I want to help small businesses in China to reach their potential customers in Africa. For big Chinese companies, “going global” seems an easy task, but for smaller businesses, there can be a lot of difficulties and that’s where my team will step in.