Crayfish International: “Chinese-speaking resources at your fingertips”
Ting Zhang, Founder and CEO of Crayfish International, was running a China specialist consultancy for 17 years before founding Crayfish. During that time she personally helped many companies enter the Chinese market, but she was dedicated to find an ultimate affordable solution for SMEs. Because their Chinese endeavours are often restricted by a lack of Chinese-speaking resources, she decided to create Crayfish.io, an online marketplace for English-Chinese bilingual project work.
Qin Li was the first and only British diplomat born in China. For the last 15 years she has been leading many government initiatives to promote closer trade and investment ties between the UK and China, and more recently with a focus on technology and education. Then she left to set up her own business, QED Education Group. Qin is a board member at Crayfish International, which operates Crayfish.io platform.
Ting and Qin kindly answered our questions on GET China, the Chinese market, the place of EdTech and the role of Crayfish in helping UK companies have a breakthrough in China.
Can you please tell us a bit about Crayfish?
Ting: Crayfish.io is the first and only online marketplace platform dedicated to English-Chinese bilingual project work. It enables businesses to instantly access a variety of skills and Chinese expertise on demand – from translation, to identifying a distributor or finding the right manufacturer in China. No matter how big or small, Crayfish’s simple design and transaction process means all projects can be done in just four easy steps. Crayfish offers considerable cost savings enabling businesses to make good use of flexible Chinese-speaking resources that are currently under-utilised.
The Crayfish.io platform is perfect for those who would like to trade with China in small steps. For companies that already have significant operations in China, they can find the platform helpful for ad hoc project work that they don’t have in-house resources to do quickly and well.
Starting from facilitating the UK-China trade, my vision for Crayfish is to bridge the language and cultural barrier between the rest of the world and China, and for Crayfish to become the place for getting affordable help for doing business in China.
In November, GET China will be gathering education technology experts from around the world. What is the place of EdTech in the Chinese education market?
Qin: Now that China is at the centre of the global economic engine, the timing is perfect to bring international education technology directly in front of its consumers and win the largest EdTech market. Chinese government invested a record US$1.07bn in EdTech start-ups in 2015 alone and investment in quality and online education is on the rise. Aside from the funding, China is also attracting its overseas tech-savvy brains back home, providing them with local training. Chinese EdTech is gradually focusing on the new STEM education. The OECD predicts that by 2020, 37% of STEM majors will come from China. Things will no longer be “made in China” but “engineered in China”.
In the last five years, China has enjoyed a rapid growth in EdTech and online learning, both in the private and public sectors. The driving forces include favourable government policies, abundant venture capital, active entrepreneurial activities, consumption upgrade, fast-growing mobile internet penetration and the fact that Chinese attach great importance to education.
One of the important goals in China’s 13th five-year plan is to achieve the digital transition in education and learning. Budget in ICT and EdTech has been increasing, reaching US$40bn. Policies were announced to speed up the development of ICT infrastructure, broadband Internet connections, Cloud LMS, Ed-SaaS and EdTech products adopted in schools. By 2015, more than half of the schools in China had achieved broadband coverage, multimedia classrooms and online learning space. The first-tier cities have achieved 99% coverage. By 2020, broadband coverage will reach almost all schools in China.
What are the challenges businesses will likely face to enter the Chinese market?
Qin: The market remains challenging for foreign companies, with China’s determination to become world-class leader in technology and science. But this also presents opportunities for foreign companies wishing to enter the Chinese market: they can play their part in the development by cooperating with Chinese counterparts and manufacturing their products in China. This approach would also help to ease and overcome the challenges foreign companies face when trying to penetrate the market by going in alone.
Foreign companies are often lost in procurement processes, not being able to fulfil the requirements or to get transparent information quickly. There is, of course, a concern over losing their IP. Finding a right partner who can navigate the processes and help protect the IP is therefore the key to success.
Ting: On the operational level, one of most cited challenges is the lack of talent and resources to carry out Chinese projects, which typically require bilingual language skills and cultural understanding. This is where companies, especially SMEs, can find niche online marketplace like Crayfish.io very helpful in fulfilling their needs for quick access to talent.
Which areas of the Chinese market are the most promising for education business?
Qin: EdTech and all education services around K12 are the most popular and promising in the years to come.
In terms of geographical areas, traditionally the east coastal cities are at the forefront of deploying technology in education. However, some top-tier regional centres, such as Chengdu, are also catching up on introducing and upgrading their technologies in schools and after-school environments.