A website of their very own
Hong Kong is one of the world's most exciting cities. There is an endless variety of things to see, eat and buy.
Or then again, is there?
Taking a closer look at major food and entertainment providers, we discover that fun in the city is the preserve of a few big businesses.
The same big brands lord it over shopping malls built above MTR stations so that they can be accessed at ease. As a result, most residents do their shopping and have their fun in giant malls.
You will have to look hard for those small, corner stores that were once the pillars of our society.
But four youngsters have done just that. Worried by the disappearance of small shops, four friends - David, Riceball, Alex and Big V - have decided to step in and help.
They set up a website for small, local stores to help popularise them. The website contains information about more than 400 such shops around town. They sell a wide range of products from groceries to toys to pieces of furniture.
The website went online in February and is already popular.
'When we began, the four of us visited the shops ourselves to collect information about the stores,' says David. 'It was not efficient at all. But soon the news of [our project] began spreading.
'We have many people posting information about small shops on the website. Now more than 80 per cent of the information has been provided by netizens. The four of us now focus on managing the site.'
The four friends have found what we have long suspected: small shops are being pushed out of the best locations by chain stores, which can afford expensive rents.
But if consumers are willing to look beyond MTR stations, they can find much more.
'Small shops are located in less connected areas but the services and goods they provide are often more affordable than those in chain stores. We hope that through our website consumers will get to know them and support them. If we do not support small shops, they will be phased out, leaving consumers with fewer choices,' David says.
Riceball says she makes a point of shopping for groceries at small convenience stores and not at supermarket chains.
'If similar goods are on offer in small shops and supermarkets, I will choose small shops every single time. Things are much cheaper at small shops. A can of coke costs HK$6.50 at a chain store, but you can get it for around HK$3 at a small store,' she says.
All four members of the team have full-time jobs. They find time after work to maintain the website, Hong Kong Small Shop.
David stresses that the site is simply a platform to promote small stores. The four friends do not plan to make any profit from it.
'When we approach some small store owners to talk about putting information about their store on our website, they ask us how much it costs,' he says.
'I want them to understand that we are not doing it for money. We're just a bunch of people who share the same passion to preserve small shops. We are doing this for their sake and for the sake of the community'.