How 369-year-old knife maker Wang Mazi found its edge again

How 369-year-old knife maker Wang Mazi found its edge again

Staff Writer
Staff Writer
Pinduoduo Content Team
December 3, 2020

Wang Mazi, a 369-year-old knives-and-scissors manufacturer in Beijing, has proven that with some imagination and lots of innovation, what is old can be new again.

Founded in the Qing dynasty in 1651, Wang Mazi (which means "pockmarked Wang'' in Chinese) was at one time the go-to place for sharp and durable steel kitchen knives and scissors, known for the exquisite workmanship that went into crafting the blades.

Wang Mazi survived the revolution that ended China's last imperial dynasty (the Qing dynasty), two World Wars and lasted well into the late 20th century before fading to the background as consumers embraced foreign brands. Wang Mazi eventually filed for bankruptcy in 2002.

Read: Consumer-to-manufacturer revolution offers glimpse into retail’s future

Wang Mazi knives on chopping board.

Most brands eventually end up on the scrap heap of history, snuffed out by competition or abandoned by fickle-minded consumers. Those that don't adapt to the times are made redundant by the relentless march of technology.

For Wang Mazi, the first stage of the comeback was its purchase by Jinhui, a knives-and-scissors manufacturer based in Guangdong that manufactures kitchen tools for world-renowned brands like Zwilling J. A. Henckels and WMF. While it has world-class manufacturing capabilities, Jinhui lacked the branding to crack the China market and remained little-known to consumers. Through Wang Mazi, Jinhui hoped to be able to rejuvenate the brand and help the company capture a slice of the fast-growing domestic market.

Next, the knife maker worked with Pinduoduo to market to its hundreds of millions of users. The platform is known for offering value-for-money merchandise and for being a pioneer in interactive e-commerce and consumer-initiated manufacturing.

By joining Pinduoduo’s “New Brand” initiative, Wang Mazi managed to gain insights into the consumer market that enabled it to be more targeted in coming up with products. This is part of the consumer-to-manufacturer (“C2M”) model that Pinduoduo pioneered.

By analyzing consumer preferences, heritage brands like Wang Mazi can customize their products to appeal to more users, shorten the product development cycle, and save on marketing, production, logistics and inventory costs. This in turn feeds into lower price points, stimulating sales demand in a virtuous circle.

To support brand development for manufacturers, Pinduoduo recently upgraded its initiative to direct more resources to help manufacturers incubate new brands, support new emerging brands, as well as help rejuvenate heritage brands.

Read: Pinduoduo accelerates factory plan with 1 trillion yuan sales target

Through the C2M program, Wang Mazi launched a new product exclusively for consumers on Pinduoduo – an all-purpose knife-cum-cleaver using the same quality materials as world-renowned brands but priced at about a quarter the price of similar offerings. The company quickly sold a million units of the model.

To date, Pinduoduo has worked with more than 1,500 companies through the “New Brand” initiative, created more than 4,000 new products and generated over 460 million cumulative orders.

From 2021 to 2025, Pinduoduo aims to support 100 industrial belts, create 100,000 new brand products and drive 1 trillion yuan in sales.

Time may have blunted the competitive edge of some heritage brands, but as Wang Mazi has proven, with the right platform and tools, they can come back stronger and sharper.