Enter the word “Foshan”, and it’s hard to find detail information about travel, culture, life and business on Google. 9 in 10 foreigners who come to this mysteriously beautiful place find it hard to go around with such little information.
“Many foreigners just know Lingnan Tiandi (岭南天地), and nothing else.” Aaron told us in the interview. Foshan is a place filled with mysteries and wonders, and Lingnan Tiandi is a small bubble reflecting one part of the whole. There are some other amazing places such as Xiqiao Mountain(西樵山), Shunde Flowery World(顺德花卉世界), Poly Canal Plaza(保利水城) waiting to be explored. Touched by the friendliness and beauty of Foshan, Aaron made up his mind to build a business bridge between Foshan and the western world. In Foshan, dianping.com(大众点评) is highly popular with comprehensive information provided in different fields of city exploration, whereas there lacks an English version of dianping for foreigners who come to Foshan and get lost. Therefore, FoshanLine, a website providing all kinds of information about Foshan was founded by Aaron and his group. "I want to get people out there, all around, to see the real Foshan." Said Aaron.
The website includes anything people can think of about B2C, such as hospitals, restaurants, cafes, hotels, recreational activities, companies and stores. With just one location, users can get all the information they need. Up to now, some 500 companies have registered on the website with the help of FIPA which introduced Aaron to various mall managements, such as Lingnan Tiandi Management and Poly Canal Plaza Management. It is hoped that by 2022 there will be as much as 3000 stores registered on the website, according to Aaron. Right now, the website is being hosted in Shenzhen Cloud system before being accessed by users.
Building a website for a city is never an easy job. Working with a local partner for more than a year, Aaron familiarizes himself with the bolts and nuts of Foshan market. "I have worked in furniture and ceramics marketing for about 4 or 5 years." Said Aaron. In terms of detailed information, for example, how to get to Hong Kong or Macao from Foshan, Aaron has to check traffic information one by one through telephone or go there in person to make sure the originality and validity of information. "After four to five months, our website will be at the top page of google for the word Foshan. " If successful, Foshan Line will be the gateway for people outside China to see what is happening in Foshan and know where is the best place to go.
Aaron has been doing SEO (Search Engine Operation) which aims at website optimization at the same time. With keywords from companies, Aaron can fix their websites high on search engine for a long period of time. Right now, 70% of the companies who buy this service are local manufacture companies in Foshan. Two months ago, a website of a company called Goldrays expert in shower door seal received more than 400 views within a month while other projects normally take a longer time span for the same results, which was a great success for his team. "Of 100 people who visited the website, there are 8 e-mails of potential customers in return." Said confidently by Aaron.
Proficiency in Chinese has helped him greatly when dealing with local companies and stores. Language is also the main reason why Aaron came to Foshan in the first place. Six years ago, a language agency recommended Foshan to Aaron for learning Chinese. In his opinion, Foshan is much more "Chinese" with all its well-preserved customs, intangible cultural heritage and intact ancient buildings compared with metropolises like Shanghai and Guangzhou. "If I stay in international big cites, I will be surrounded by foreigners which is bad for me studying Chinese." Said Aaron.
In his eyes, Foshan is a city of possibilities, town of opportunities. "If you want a comfortable life, you stay in the UK. But if you want to seek some opportunity, come to Foshan." Said Aaron. He thinks that as the world capital for ceramics and furniture, Foshan has a promising platform for people who want to make a business.
Life in Foshan has another dimension. "Foshan is a big city, but you feel like its small." For Aaron, it is easier to build decent connection with different people and stay in a small community which can be expanded at any time instead of floating around like an island. He prefers the friendly atmosphere here where he can easily keep relationships. With its convenient location, Foshan neighbors Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhongshan within 2 hours drive, which contributes to the communication and business with other cities.
In Aaron house stands a cupboard of 20 different tea. As a British from Stratford-Upon-Avon, he brings with him the passion for tea and follows the local tea culture. At the weekend, he will paint pictures or play board games with his friends in Foshan.
“I would not be the one doing this right now if I didn’t come to Foshan.” Aaron said. Being a bridge builder of business, now he finds a bridge leading to a larger world.