China has no equivalent of a nationwide big-box retailer like Wal-Mart, instead it has e-commerce. Hurst Lin, general partner at venture capital firm DCM, says that amid all the hype for e-commerce, the untold story is the role it plays in China’s lesser-tier cities:
“E-commerce plays the role of Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart started off saying, ‘I don’t want to go to Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, because they already have JC Penny, K-Mart, Macy’s. I want to go the rural areas, towns with a population of no greater than 10,000.’ So Wal-Mart put outlets in each and every Smalltown, America. And they end up being the biggest retailer in the world.
And I think no one is doing that [in China]. Obviously, Wal-Mart itself is trying, but it has not done that well, because the government is on their ass. And also, they cannot build fast enough to keep up with the consumer. So the thing that fills the gap is e-commerce.