Is Entrepreneurship the Answer to Unemployment in the Post-Pandemic World?

Fostering stability in the growing gig economy with low-cost community entrepreneurship that is sustainable and attainable for all

Photo by zhang kaiyv on Unsplash

The pandemic outbreak has taken a toll on people’s lives and the global economy.

Globally, news of massive spikes in unemployment, business closures and government relief measures sat on the front pages of national papers. During the peak of the pandemic in China this February, unemployment rate was at a record high of 6.2%.

As we plan for a post-pandemic world and some semblance of normalcy, an essential aspect would be to reboot the economy by creating jobs for the unemployed.

Fostering Stability in the Gig Economy

Photo by Kai Pilger on Unsplash

Most recently, owing to the change in consumer behavior, we are witnessing a rise in the gig economy, largely driven by the growth of eCommerce and the demand for its adjacent services such as logistics. Many have taken on gigs such as food delivery and Uber driving. But the term ‘gig economy’ inherently communicates its transience and instability. It might be great in the interim but isn’t a sustainable solution in the long run.

To successfully move a large group of people into some form of sustainable employment during a volatile period when the economy is on a downturn, we can look to community entrepreneurship for a viable and stable solution.

When we speak of entrepreneurship, many might associate it with innovative ideas funded by deep-pocketed venture capitalists and managed by a group of young founders. But the reality is, entrepreneurship can take many shapes and forms. Here, we are trying to nurture low-cost entrepreneurship to bring about sustainable job creation that can outlast the pandemic.

A Cainiao Post station

Capitalizing on Cainiao’s broader plans to create a nationwide network of community post stations across 100 cities, job opportunities were created to support aspiring entrepreneurs in setting up their very own Cainiao-branded Community Post Stations.

These post stations called “Cainiao Post” will be managed by the local communities. Successful applicants receive support in the form of waivers of partnership fees, deployment of digital systems to reduce the capital outlay and lower the barrier of entry for first-time business owners. Cainiao has also introduced value-added services such as group buys and laundry services to help the managers increase their revenue and footfall.

A Low-Cost Entrepreneurship that is Attainable for All

According to a Cainiao Post manager, Xiaole, who is based in a tier-one city in East China, he has reviewed all his entrepreneurship options prior to deciding on setting up the post station with Cainiao. If he were to open his own convenience store, the capital outlay of approximately RMB 200,000–300,000 would be slightly out of reach for him. Similarly, venturing into popular areas like eCommerce might sound lucrative but it is a sector that he is unfamiliar with.

After consulting many people and other Cainiao Post managers, and doing his own due diligence by studying how each Cainiao Post operates and assessing the potential revenue generated from the traffic, he was confident that this is the most feasible option for him.

Furthermore, based on China’s courier delivery volume of 63 billion in 2019, which balloons during large sale events such as Double 11, there are plenty of opportunities for Cainiao Post managers to play an essential role in the last mile delivery and maintain a sustainable income stream.

Digitalizing the Last Mile Based on a Win-Win Collaboration

Smart lockers located in a Cainiao Post station

For many entrepreneurs such as Xiaole, they are able to leverage Cainiao’s brand and resources to quickly launch a business that taps on a growing consumer demand for logistics services and peripheral value-added services.

The lower barrier of entry has opened the doors to entrepreneurship for many families. They are not only able to leverage their connections and understanding of the community to better serve their needs, they can also look forward to building a business which can sustain their entire household.

Building a nationwide post station network is no easy feat. Even with the right resources, the sheer scale and hyper-localization nature of the operations would require in-depth community knowledge and presence — something that only a person who belongs to that community can offer. This partnership model is also in line with Cainiao’s goal of making it easy to do business anywhere and our plan to digitalize the entire logistics value chain, right down to the last mile.

Looking at the Big Picture

A Cainiao Post station located in an University Campus

This form of job creation will go a long way to stabilizing the foundation of the digital economy. As more consumers and businesses move online, smart logistics and last-mile delivery will serve as a game-changer for merchants to differentiate themselves by offering better customer experience at a more competitive price.

Here, Cainiao Post will be a key building block in the digitalization of last mile services and the broader community, while delivering greater convenience and security to their customers.

This will consolidate Cainiao Post managers’ essential role in the ecosystem and ensure they continue to reap the benefits of the burgeoning digital economy even after the pandemic.

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