China's version of eBay is flourishing despite a crawling global economy and critics accusing the company of abetting black marketeers, the New York Times reports. Started 6 years ago, Taobao.com offers free listings, which forced eBay out of China and lured 120 million users who generate $15 billion in annual sales. Analysts say that number will double next year. “It’s their Amazon and eBay combined," says one expert.
Millions of people across China operate Taobao stores from their homes, selling anything they can buy locally or sneak out of factories—many of which are stuffed with unwanted goods in today's economy. Sellers also smuggle items in from the US and Europe to post them on Taobao at lower prices, avoiding import duties. “I never thought I could do this well,” says one seller who made $75,000 last year. "The profit margins are higher.”