Digitally China Podcast: The War of a Thousand Groupons

The extraordinary story of what happened when Groupon tried - and failed - to take on the Chinese market

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11:51 PM HKT, Mon September 16, 2019 1 mins read

Digitally China is a bi-weekly podcast from RADII hosted by Tom Xiong and Eva Xiao, and produced by Jacob Loven. On each episode, the team will tackle a different timely tech-related topic, providing key insights on all you need to know about the fast-changing nature of innovation in China. Find previous episodes of Digitally China here and subscribe on iTunes here. Scroll down to listen to the latest episode on Spotify.

In the latest Digitally China we’re looking back on a particularly crazy chapter in Chinese internet history. Meituan-Dianping is China’s clear market leader within group buying, offline discovery and online-offline services today. But it wasn’t that clear a few years back. In fact, the opposite was true, with the American giant Groupon entering China backed by a powerful partner in Tencent. In a hyper-competitive environment, there were suddenly thousands of group-buying services all fighting for the position that Meituan has today.

For a sense of what that time was like, we interviewed Tim He, who was a senior executive of Gaopeng, the Chinese subsidiary of Groupon when they entered the market. Tim, who took a break from Harvard to go back to China to take on the daunting task of trying to win in such an enormous, sprawling market, takes us through some of the incredible stories from that exciting period.

As a seasoned investor at one of Europe’s most renowned venture firms, Kinnevik, Tim also reflects on learnings from the Chinese technology sector as well as the success factors behind today’s “super apps” of China.

Topics covered in this episode

  • How Groupon entered the Chinese market
  • The group-buying industry
  • How to operate in a market with thousands of competitors
  • What lessons can you learn from China that are applicable for Western markets?
  • The success factors behind super app companies such as Meituan-Dianping, Alipay and more

Listen to the latest Digitally China episode below or find it (and previous episodes) on iTunes here.

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