Who is Viya (WēiYà) - Chinese LiveStream Selling Rockets: Biography, Personal Profile and Net Worth
|After Viya became Taobao’s top-ranked seller last year (and appeared with Kim Kardashian West), netizens claimed that she could “earn a house in one night.” Photo Sao Star|
Viya (or Wēi Yà, the stage name of Huáng Wēi) is the face of this new “ecommerce livestreaming” boom. Her numbers are staggering. She can draw more viewers – 37 million this May — than the finales of Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, and the latest season of The Bachelor, combined. She’s made more profit in one day (Single’s Day 2019, $385 million) than Aston Martin does in one year. She’s sold everything — car fresheners and GM rice, noodles and houses, razors and rockets (designed to launch satellites into orbit).
|Photo Global Times|
Viya’s livestreaming show is a hybrid, described by Bloomberg as “part variety show, part infomercial, part group chat.” At its heart is a conveyor belt of products, each held up, praised, demonstrated, and dispatched, with fans shooting out of the gates in pursuit of hot discounts with a swift “5-4-3-2-1!”
But many come just for her personable, grounded, and engaging persona. She laughs freely with A-List celebrities and asks the questions viewers desperately want answered. She shouts jokes with a joyous smile to her assistants off camera. She plucks out comments from the swarm that flood up the side of the screen, answering those begging for recommendations or pacifying others wanting refunds, all in her reassuring husky contralto voice. She describes the latest fashions with the to-the-second knowledge of an insider and the no-nonsense authority of a connoisseur. Fans have christened her Dora-viya, a nod to Doraemon, an anime character who dishes out handy gadgets to friends from a magic pouch.
It’s a reputation she carefully nurtures.
|I position myself as someone who helps the customer make a decision... I need to think about their needs.|
At one point she just told them about fashion, but fans loved it when she randomly ate cake on-screen, suggesting she try selling that, too. She sold 1,000 in one second.
She comes across as the girl next door, dressing casually to create intimacy, as if joining viewers for a cozy catch-up at the end of their day. She originally started with a facade of professionalism, dressing well and focused unswervingly on the pitch. But fans were interested in hearing about her life, so now she gossips with them, telling them about how her kids and husband are doing.
Selling Rockets and Houses on Taobao’s Livestream Service
|The queen of China’s live online shopping, Viya earned an estimated 30 million yuan in 2018. Photo Bloomberg|
After Viya became Taobao’s top-ranked seller last year (and appeared with Kim Kardashian West), netizens claimed that she could “earn a house in one night.” Now the ecommerce champion is literally selling deeds to houses — as well as rockets — over Taobao’s livestream service.
Viya entered the fledgling real-estate-livestream industry, offering her fans property deeds for as little as 521RMB (around 74USD). The house in question was a 24,000RMB per square meter apartment complex in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou.
Viya clarified during the livestream that she was not earning any money from the sales, and that she just wanted to push the boundaries of livestreaming.
But she didn’t stop there. The next day, she sold five commercial rocket launch packages for a whopping 45 million RMB (USD 6.3 million) each. But don’t worry — she offered her viewers an exclusive discount of 5 million RMB. Included in the “deals” were visits to the launch site, “command” over the launch, and customization of the body of the rocket, Radii China reported.
|In a recent profile, SupChina described Viya’s livestreaming popularity as “staggering”. Indeed it is, Bloomberg reported that she can draw more viewers – 37 million this May — than the finales of Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, and the latest season of The Bachelor. |
“She’s made more profit in one day (Single’s Day 2019, US$385 million) than Aston Martin does in one year. She’s sold everything — car fresheners and GM rice, noodles and houses, razors and rockets (designed to launch satellites into orbit),” the title notes.
Her popularity has soared during the COVID-19 crisis. Viewing figures for her evening show – Taobao’s most-watched ecommerce livestream — doubled during China’s COVID-19 lockdown.
Jing Daily reported that Viya will not feature a product in her live stream unless it has been rigorously tested by her and her team. Every day, prior to her streams, she spends around four hours testing and reviewing products to be featured, and only with her final permission can a product be added to the line-up, the title reported. On 10 October 2019, she broke her own sales record once again, generating revenues of around US$49.7 million in a single day.
|Viya’s daily schedule is brutal. She streams for four hours every evening, seven days a week, trying 30 to 40 products from 8 p.m. to midnight. Then she preps for the next day, reviewing 200 to 300 products with her team of assistants until the morning. She sleeps from 9 a.m. to 2 or 3 in the afternoon. |
It all shows when tuning in at 11 p.m. one evening last week. Today her countdown feels jaded, part of the daily commute. She’s gotten through eight products in the space of half an hour, but tells us to stick around as there are more than 20 still to come. She assures us a breakfast cereal is delicious, lauds the flavor of vacuum-packed pork (“fresh from the factory”), and munches on “excellent” shellfish noodles. But how could anyone believe those dulled eyes?
The woman who can sell anything
|Photo Sixth Tone|
In April, Huang – known professionally as Viya – sold a rocket launch for about 40 million yuan ($8.3 million). The live, online shopping extravaganza the 34-year-old hosts most nights for her fans across China is part variety show, part infomercial, part group chat. Last month, she hit a record-high audience of more than 37 million – more than the Game of Thrones finale, the Oscars or Sunday Night Football in the US.
Each night, Viya’s audience places orders worth millions of dollars – typically for cosmetics, appliances, prepared foods or clothing, but she’s also moved houses and cars. On Singles Day, China’s biggest shopping event of the year, she did more than 3 billion yuan in sales. The spread of coronavirus, which put most Chinese people under stay-at-home orders, doubled her viewership.
In a world where we all shop almost exclusively from our couches, Viya is one vision of our collective future. Livestream shopping is a natural confluence of several current tech trends – streaming, influencers, social, commerce – and offers companies a new path to consumers' hearts and wallets. Tesla, Procter & Gamble and supermodel-turned-beauty-entrepreneur Miranda Kerr, among others, have turned to Viya to introduce them to the Chinese market. The queen of China’s $US60 billion ($88 billion) ecosystem of live online shopping, Viya earned an estimated 30 million yuan in 2018, according to the most recent figures from Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.
“I can’t miss Viya’s shows,” says Linda Qu, a 30-year-old tech worker in Hangzhou. After she puts her four-year-old son to bed, Qu lets Viya’s livestream run on her smartphone while she’s doing yoga or watching TV on the couch. Nearly every show, she clicks to buy. The fear of missing out keeps her coming back: “What if there’s something nice and I didn’t get it? What a loss.”
That’s the clincher for companies desperate to impress China’s growing middle class, customers who have learnt the hard way to be suspicious of counterfeits and knock-offs. China powered one-third of global consumption growth from 2010 to 2017, says a report from McKinsey Global Institute, and that role is set to continue as the economy paces the pandemic recovery. Over the next 10 years, the growth in Chinese consumption is expected to equal that of the US and Western Europe combined.
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