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In China, Big Data Is Becoming Big Business

Shopping drives Beijing's Sanlitun area
Shopping drives Beijing's Sanlitun areaPhotograph by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

With 1.3 billion people, a quickly expanding urban economy, and rising rates of Internet and smartphone penetration, China generates an immense amount of data annually. If streams of that data can be appropriately sifted, analyzed, and stored, companies seeking to understand China’s often-fickle consumers could have access to valuable real-time insights—and perhaps early warning to the next big consumer trends.

At a presentation last week at Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management, China’s premier business school, associate professor of marketing Meng Su predicted: “China will soon become world’s most important data market.” He advised job seekers in China and elsewhere to consider training for a new career path as “data scientists,” which he described as “one of the most valuable jobs in the next 10 years.” Interpreting big data seems poised to become big business.