Interviewing entrepreneurs in China: Chinese rental housing market, a more complicated market than it seems

China Paradigms interviewed Shiny Cheng, the CEO and founder of Shinijia, to learn about the current Chinese rental housing market and the challenges of doing business here.

Shiny Cheng, founder of Shinijia, an expert in the Chinese rental housing market

After graduating from Hainan Normal University, Shiny (Cancan) Cheng had been working as a foreign Chinese teacher in Shanghai before embarking on her entrepreneurship adventure in the Chinese rental housing market.

Shiny Cheng is an ambitious and decisive entrepreneur in China. With her passion for interior design and team management in China, Shiny started Shinijia, an interior design company in 2012. She continuously developed the size of her business in the past seven years in order to strive at the top of the Chinese rental housing market.

Shiny is also an aspiring member of the Entrepreneur Organization with aims to resolve challenges facing by the Chinese rental housing market by providing professional insights on team management in China.

Chinese rental housing market
[Shiny Cheng, founder of Shinijia, an expert in the Chinese rental housing market]

Shinijia: Differentiating in the Chinese rental housing market with unique design and excellent pricing

Shinijia is a Shanghai-based co-living rental housing in China that offers unique apartment design, excellent price point, and comprehensive management. The company owns the largest market share in the Chinese rental housing market in the downtown of Shanghai. Currently, it renovates and manages 1,000 rooms from scratch with 0 RMB. 

find roommates in China
[Shinijia, a boutique co-living rental housing in China]

Shiny explains Shinijia’s mission: “There are more and more young people who are living and working in big cities like Shanghai and Beijing. Living problems have now become a major concern. The living environment could easily affect their health and living quality, so we hope to design the best comfortable living environment for these people.”

Up to now, the size of Shinijia has increased to 800 apartment rooms, 40 attractive design management talents, and a full decoration maintenance team. The company has now moved into an open office space, which is designed by Shinijia itself and owns the top popularity among Shanghai’s co-living apartment brands in the Chinese rental housing market.

Everything happens on online marketplaces in China

Shiny values product design as the priority of her business, which serves as a media for presenting the design concepts and core values of Shinijia. She is dedicated to elaborating details of the renovated interior design and gains high praise from her target customers on online marketplaces in China, who are young professionals and students with international backgrounds and want to find roommates in China for a comfortable co-living environment.

Shiny is proud of her accomplishment: “Every single picture is taken by a professional photographer. There are many clients who even say that when they walk into the apartments, the designs are even more beautiful than the pictures.”

In terms of client acquisition, Shiny expands her vision by seeking connections with third-party websites and gains clients through online referrals in the Chinese rental housing market. She is now coming up with other ways to expand the influence of Shinijia.

“Some people are listing their own apartments on our online marketplace. But in the beginning, we only used this to rent our housings. Now, people from outside also sometimes use our platform to list their apartments or find roommates in China.”

Shiny is also taking into account the use of a handyman app, which could be efficient for propagating Shinijia’s online promotions and resolving the problems of rental housing.

Ways to tackle the challenges of doing business in China

Shiny regards the location of rental housing as the major challenge of doing business in China. The intense business of rental housing in China doubles the value of great location in recent years, and the survival of the competition is getting extremely difficult. Shiny is now trying her best to persuade owners of apartments in good spots to sign a 10-year contract to reach a great source in Chinese rental housing market in the long term.

Strict regulation is another challenge that cannot be ignored.

“In the beginning, it’s not legal for us to rent a three-bedroom apartment, but there will be just one living room and a bedroom,” said Shiny.

Once it turned legal, Shiny opened her business to the whole Chinese rental housing market and also reserved 20% of Shinijia’s apartments for Airbnb business. But still, the co-living model is encountering limitations in mainland China. Therefore, Shiny is now seeking opportunities to expand her business to another environment, Hong Kong.

Shiny admits her beginner’s mind before joining Entrepreneurship Organization.

”I didn’t establish formal processes of team management in China and training from the start. I only learned it from my experience. People were quitting. There were factions within our company, and people were talking behind each other.”

The intense training given at the Entrepreneurship Organization helped Shiny to work on team management in China. She started to establish a company culture, core values, and vision for Shinijia. Now, everything is going in the right direction.


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