MIRANDA QU Qilai Shen Bloomberg Getty Images

Qilai Shen/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Miranda Qu

Cofounder, Xiaohongshu

In hindsight, building a business around shopping was inevitable for Miranda Qu. While visiting the US while on a break from her journalism studies, she met her business partner and Xiaohongshu cofounder Charlwin Mao in a mall.

Shanghai-based Xiaohongshu, or RED as it is known outside China, is an e-commerce website with a difference. Of its over 300 million registered users, the company says 70% were born after 1990, and 80% are female.

The company has a valuation in the region of $5 billion and has some serious tech and retail investors, including Tencent and Alibaba.

The appeal of the website to a younger and female demographic lies partly in its functionality as one part e-commerce and one part social. The site has a focus on fashion and beauty, in particular those items that are difficult to find in China.

As well as being able to buy products, Xiaohongshu allows users to post reviews and blogs and even create their own lifestyle stories. Its ability to build communities of shoppers, as well as its reliance on trusted word-of-mouth advertising, has made it a hit with young women.