Monday, September 08, 2008

There's An Entrepreneur Born Every Minute

Come up with a new product that meets needs not yet realized, and you can make a fortune. Who would have imagined that we all needed a computer in our home, but that was the niche that Bill Gates filled.

Sometimes the niche that needs filling is highly specialized. Sometimes all you need to do is provide a product that's difficult to come by, and there's the road to your personal success.

A group of Chinese entrepreneurs discovered that their fellow countrymen were short on dead bodies. Not just any dead body of course, since we all know that death is inevitable and once we shake our mortal coil, there's a corpse left behind.

Custom and belief in China require burial for the remains of the loved one. Law requires cremation. Ever so much more practical, like the one child policy, in that space is saved and good farmland doesn't get under-planted. Besides, the burial nonsense is a load of superstition, based on the notion that your ancestors will bring you good luck and blessings if they're in the ground and not burnt to a crisp.

How to get around the law? Some clever fellows provided a corpse service, in which someone with ten thousand yuan could buy a dead body to turn over for cremation, while the late, lamented family member's remains were buried with full pomp and circumstance.

Only the wealthy could afford the service, but even a specialty market proved to be profitable. The problem arose when the elderly and the mentally challenged began to disappear from small, impoverished towns in Guangdong and the authorities started to investigate.

The gang was rumbled and their stock was confiscated. The funeral home owner who was involved in the business has admitted guilt, and the supply of corpses to the rich has temporarily dried up.

This isn't the first cadaver-providing firm to go out of business, nor is it the last. As long as there is a demand, someone will step in with the supply.

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