Related News

Speed, Safety and Freshness Are Survival Code to E-Grocery: Hema Xiansheng CEO


Life after novel coronavirus won’t be the same, and the changes in the making are more epic in the world’s populated country fighting the stigma as the epicenter of the viral disease that has wrecked the year 2020. “Safety and health-consciousness” have never been so emphasized in China, said Hou Yi, chief executive and founder of Hema Xiansheng, China’s online grocery market platform. 

The world’s biggest population which is also savvy with handset gadget has become used to doing everything from home – ordering, working and doing business, the CEO told Maeil Business Newspaper. 

When ordering food, consumers are more lured to fresh ingredients and healthy home-cooked meals. 

Hema Xiansheng, the only Chinese supermarket chain operating both online and offline channels, virtually dominates Chinese online grocery scene. Its business has been gaining steam during the COVID-19 crisis, with its sales more than tripling. 

Founded in 2015, the company went under the Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba Group in March 2016. Its founder Hou is now serving as Alibaba’s vice president. 

Hema Xiansheng is at the center of Alibaba’s ‘New Retail’ strategy, a vision introduced by Alibaba founder Jack Ma in 2016. The goal of the strategy is creating new consumer experiences by connecting every aspect of retail including online, offline, logistics, payment and digital. Hema offers free 30-minute deliveries of fresh produces within a radius of 3 kilometers from stores.  


Hou said during the interview that the company keeps upgrading item lineups, supply chain and personalized marketing under the goal of providing ‘delicious life’ to consumers. Living within 3 kilometers of Hema stores has become one of the important standards that determine people’s quality of life, he added. 

In order to optimize inventory and reduce losses, the company runs entire distribution processes on big data, artificial intelligence and automation technology with the help of ecommerce giant Alibaba. It predicts demand based on weather, time, region, demographic characteristic and trend studies through its broad database established by Alibaba’s e-commerce platform Taobao and mobile payment system Alipay. 

The company employs smart analysis tools and online-offline integrated system to optimize inventory, he said. For instance, if a certain product has a large stock, consumers can receive information about discount of the product and buy it without physically visiting the store, he added. 

Preparing for the post-COVID-19, the company is striving for ‘zero toxicity’ to add consumer concerns over health and safety. As consumers now have high interest in healthy food and produces, it has extended food items containing zero growth enhancer, artificial hormone and chemical pesticide from organic vegetables to every vegetable, fruit and meat, he said. 

He predicted new technology would create more employment, far from destroying jobs. He said traditional retail industry didn’t need engineers but Hema Xiansheng’s delivery service needs many of them. The company created more than 30,000 jobs this year and is worried about being short on hires instead of excess in the future. 

Hema Xiansheng plans to help more Korean food and beverage companies enter the Chinese market by hiring Min Kyung-il, who has been serving as a bridge between Korean and Chinese firms for more than 10 years, as brand strategy adviser. He said he would provide online and offline platforms to Korean small- and mid-sized firms to enter and settle in the Chinese market. 

Korean food industry is very advanced and can offer opportunities for the company, he said. 

 Hema Xiansheng"s chief executive and founder Hou Yi

By Yoo Joon-ho, Park Eun-jung and Choi Mira