Crowdfunding is still pretty much a novelty in Asia, and in particular China. Though there are a few homegrown firms, the concept hasn’t really kicked off as it has in the West yet, with major sites including Kickstarter and Indiegogo still not present within the country.

E-commerce firm JD.com is therefore seeking to be a frontrunner in this space by launching its very own crowdfunding platform, called ‘Coufenzi’ (which means whip-round), as first spotted by Technode. The new platform is managed by JD Finance, which offers internet finance services for its customers.

Marking the debut of Coufenzi are 12 crowdfunding campaigns, of which seven are smart hardware products (two are seen below). This comes after JD.com recently launched a cloud platform to help manufacturers in the ‘internet of things’ sector come up with more appealing products for online shoppers, with a spokesperson revealing that it will use big data to help manufacturers understand consumers’ needs.

Screen Shot 2014 07 02 at 2.28.13 pm 730x507 Alibabas rival JD.com pushes crowdfunding in China by launching its own platform

It is indeed apt for an e-commerce firm such as JD to be behind a crowdfunding platform — as it not only lets the company gain insight into what kind of products are popular and may eventually be put up for sale on its main site, it also gives customers a chance to expose themselves to new products, or even start their own projects if they see a gap in the market.

A JD spokesperson also told TNW that the company is encouraging investors to interact with the fund-raisers, so they can use the feedback to tweak elements of their products including design and/or pricing if necessary.

After securing investment from Tencent and subsequently raising $1.78 billion in a US IPO, JD has been aggressively branching out from its core function as an e-commerce provider, seeking to compete with fierce rival Alibaba.

It remains to be seen if crowdfunding can help JD stand out, given that the donation culture in China (which is typically needed for crowd contributions) is still very nascent. However, the platform complements JD’s other offerings particularly in smart hardware, and could very well gain popularity in China before other major Western crowdfunding sites eye the Chinese market.

Headline image via PRNewsFoto