Chinese internet firms launch online courses to help businesses get through COVID-19

By Li Jie, People’s Daily Overseas Edition
The Chinese business world, which went through huge pressure and challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic, is now regaining energy and seeing a light of hope thanks to the online business courses launched by Chinese internet companies.
Meituan Dianping, an internet-based local services giant in China, has invited founders of multiple catering titans to its “online university” since late March to share how they embraced digitalization to cope with the major public health crisis.
A man who established a dining brand that focused on dine-in services shared his story of transformation on Meituan Dianpings platform. I lost all my customers all of a sudden, he said on a livestreaming course, noting that his 600 franchises all suspended dine-in services at the end of January, which forced him to resort to online delivery as his salvation. Fortunately, things went well, according to him, and the efforts effectively drove the turnover of his franchises.
A batch of online vocational training platforms were recently recommended by Chinas Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security to the Chinese society, including the universities established by renowned internet enterprises.
The total time of online vocational courses launched on Tencent Class, a platform under Chinese tech giant Tencent, surged 3.5 times when people were quarantined at home, according to the data released by the platform in mid-March.
Statistics from Meituan Dianping indicated that the company had offered over 3,000 courses in pictures, videos, and live broadcasts for more than 3 million merchants and couriers over the past three months.
Online marketing is one of the hottest courses, as how to make breakthroughs in marketing by short videos and livestreaming remained a major focus of business owners and entrepreneurs.
“Resorting to online channels is inevitable for retailing enterprises,” said Ye Ting, operations director at Taobao University, an e-business learning platform under Chinese e-commerce titan Taobao.
Ye added that many companies have swiftly organized online learning for all their employees and required them to grasp operation capabilities in all fields.
At present, apart from new retail enterprises, companies from traditional sectors such as automobile, electricity and telecommunication have also joined online courses, according to Ye.
While facilitating the transformation of major enterprises, the online courses are also making micro and small businesses more flexible and adaptive.
A man surnamed Su from Yueyang, central China’s Hunan province runs an online store selling fishing floats, and his business was severely impacted by the epidemic due to the quarantine measures. It was the online courses he learnt from Taobao University that enabled him to made bold trials in marketing, and triple sales volume.
As a matter of fact, Su is not the only one trying to seek new opportunities. According to data from Taobao University, about 30,000 new sellers on Taobao are learning on the platform each day, and nearly 150,000 people are consulting online instructors.
The pandemic may further shape the online courses in the future and make online training more acceptable. A major feature of online courses is the price advantage, said Ye, which enables them to cover a wide range of employees. This made learning a regular activity for enterprises, Ye added.
“Online and offline channels will be integrated closer, and industries will also become smarter after the pandemic,” said Chen Rongkai, executive president of the online university of Meituan Dianping, adding that online learning platforms will serve more businesses, which means a bigger market.
There are bright prospects, Chen remarked, saying the digitalization of industries is indeed the digitalization of people.

Chang Yupeng, a deliveryman who got rid of poverty by working as a deliveryman for Meituan, shares his story on a livestreamed course. (Photo provided by Meituan)

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