China food fraud smartphone business set to raise $11.5m in expansion drive

By Lester Wan contact

- Last updated on GMT

Walimai began producing anti-counterfeit RFID labels for FMCG goods, especially infant and baby food, in 2013. ©Walimai
Walimai began producing anti-counterfeit RFID labels for FMCG goods, especially infant and baby food, in 2013. ©Walimai
A China firm that allows consumers to check food labels via their smartphones to ensure that products are not fakes looks set to raise $11.5m to further champion its food safety drive.

Walimai began producing anti-counterfeit RFID labels for FMCG goods, especially infant and baby food, in 2013.

“This (technology) allowed us to build a solution that was secure, convenient and consumer friendly,” ​said the founders.

The RFID labels can either communicate with consumers’ smartphones, or consumers can scan the QR codes to verify whether the products are authentic or not.

Walimai said that the labels and unique RFID chips have anti-cloning protection “with dynamic data”, and anti-reuse protection.

The company hopes to expand the use of its food safety technology to include alcoholic products such as wine by the end of this year, and cosmetics and pharmaceutical products by 2018.

Furthermore, Walimai intends to use the funds to develop a block chain-based loyalty programme for customers.

The company planned to raise $11.5 million in digital token sales to support their efforts.

As China has banned new digital token sales, Walimai set up a company in Singapore called the WaBi Project.

The WaBi Project will issue 46 million WaBi coins for $0.25 per token to participants. China citizens will not be able to take part and the company has given assurances that it will check identifying documents, Internet Protocol addresses and phone numbers to confirm the buyer’s nationality.

At the end of the first day of the sale, the company posted on its Twitter account @wabiico: “Out of the 46M Wabis put on sale for the #ICO we've already sold over 42.8m (93%) during day 1. Thanks a lot for being with us. Let's go #WaBiWaBi !”

Though there have been concerns of a “cryptocurrency bubble” ​or of fraud, ICOs and digital tokens are an increasingly popular form of fundraising for start-ups in this age. In exchange for funds, buyers get the new token that has some assigned value, such as to redeem a service, purchase products, or possibly even to invest in a stake in the company.

WaBi tokens can be used in place of cash to purchase products with Walimai labels and to accumulate loyalty points within safe retail channels. The company said that customers can also ‘mine’ additional WaBi tokens by scanning Walimai labels.

Walimai was founded in the post-tragedy climate of the 2004 baby food scandal where 63 babies died from consuming fake baby milk, and the Chinese milk scandal of 2008 in which six infants died, 54,000 were hospitalised and with reported total of 300,000 victims having fallen ill after drinking contaminated milk formula.

The 2012 report that the value of imported fake goods worldwide was US$461b added further impetus.

Ironically, in celebrating the start of business operations in Hangzhou in 2014, founders Alexander Busarov and Yaz Belinskiy were poisoned by fake whiskey. They said this only steeled their resolve and made it clear to them that they were in the right business vocation.

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