When U.S. private equity heavyweight Warburg Pincus [WP.UL] started looking at China's logistics sector in late 2009, there were more modern warehouses in Boston than in the whole of the world's most populous country.
But as Chinese consumers embarked on an online shopping spree, demand has soared from appliance makers, express delivery firms and e-commerce companies such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and JD.com Inc, far outpacing supply and prompting a parallel binge in investment in warehouses and logistics businesses.
China's economy expanded in the second quarter at the slowest pace since the global financial crisis of 2008-09, online shopping revenues have soared and are expected to double to 7.5 trillion yuan ($1.13 trillion) in 2018 from last year, consumer and internet consultancy iResearch estimates.
Online retail as a percentage of total retail in China has grown steadily to 12.6 percent, and is forecast to reach 17 percent in 2018, according to iResearch and China's National Statistics Bureau.
By comparison, U.S. e-commerce sales accounted for 8.1 percent of total sales in the second quarter of 2016, underscoring the fast adoption of online shopping in China, where consumers with rising incomes use smartphones to order everything from appliances and clothes to flowers and pizza.
India, another emerging Asian giant with a burgeoning middle class, has seen a similar trend and is also attracting investment in warehouses.
Chinaâ€˜s logistics market reached 1 trillion yuan in 2015, led by an increase in so-called storage spending that includes warehousing, processing and packaging of goods.
CPPIB has committed $2.6 billion to Chinaâ€˜s logistics market, including a $1 billion investment unveiled late in 2015 in a venture with Goodman Group.
Warburg Pincus-backed e-Shang has grown into one of the largest logistics providers for e-commerce companies including JD.com, with Thomson Reuters publication IFR saying the company could raise $1 billion in a 2016 initial public offering (IPO).