Berlin-based startup 88tc88 has taken another step towards its goal of becoming the iTunes for China with the launch of PaiShouBa. The digital sales platform will offer Chinese consumers a viable legal alternative to downloading Western content illegally and potentially represents a breakthrough into an enormously valuable market.
Currently, according to 88tc88’s CEO Thomas Reemer, the situation in China mirrors that in the Western world from a decade ago, when there was no culture of paying for content online. That all changed with the introduction and success of iTunes, a feat Thomas is now looking to replicate.
And with mobile now exceeding private computers when it comes to Internet usage in China, there is a strong market for a mobile commerce experience. The new platform will enable users to buy digital content such as apps, music, games and e-books at reasonable prices rather than through pirating – and much of that content is only available in China on PaiShouBa, which is a Chinese word meaning ‘applause’.
With prices in China rising over the past few years alongside disposable income, the platform can allow for competitive pricing in the Chinese market. Thomas said: “We charge 1-2 RMB [€.012-0.25] per song, 10-12 RMB per album, which is a fifth of Western prices, and a minimum that has been set by the government. For comparison, a subway ticket one way is 2 RMB, cheap street food [is] 7-10 RMB, live music [is] 70-100 RMB [€8.64-12.35] per concert.”
Established online business like QQ, an instant messaging software, and Baidu, a Chinese Google equivalent, have an average revenue per user (ARPU) level of approximately 10-20 RMB (€1.24-2.48) a month. Thomas is aiming for half of that.
There is also integration with local social media, with users able to sign up via popular Chinese platforms such as QQ, RenRen and Weibo. In addition, PaiShouBa allows the consumer to use payment options such as China’s answer to PayPal, Alipay.
As with any Western company entering China, a relationship with the Chinese authorities is probably the most important factor for success – and the most scrutinised one back home. 88tc88 offers a one-stop solution of translation, approval by the authorities, product globalisation, and international publishing and sales, something which it says makes the Chinese market easier to access than ever before.
Equally important from the point of view of the content creators in the West is the element of trust. Thomas Reener said the company offers a safe and secure release environment: “You need to be able to offer a transparent solution – I think transparency is the biggest stumbling block, and we do that. Our platform is completely controlled… We are in a very fortunate situation because we’re coming from the ‘right side’, and we can protect our clients’ content when it enters China.”
88tc88 received a seven-figure investment last year from Carsten Maschmeyer’s Alstin firm, and has also partnered with independent music distributor The Orchard.