Xinda Zhan is China’s first pearl businessman to make a fortune, not only from pearls, but from live-streaming the process of harvesting them. Aiming to let viewers revel in the excitement he feels when discovering the precious objects, he films himself for the world to see. And, according to an interview he did with BBC, he also has a nifty concept in which to engage viewers—he lets them buy a mussel that he will then film himself harvesting and opening. If there’s a pearl inside, the viewer is a winner and reaps the rewards.
In half a year, this millennial entrepreneur, who is better known as Pearl Bro, has made $4.4 million (30 million RMB)—six times what his entire family makes in the business, in the traditional way, in a year. Born in a pearl town, Pearl Bro’s approach has reinvented a traditional business. Here’s how he did it.
1. He builds a community before the sell
In two years, the live streaming market value has more than tripled, reaching to $3.04 billion in 2016. Pearl Bro gave the reasons for the phenomenon. “Young people in China are facing a lot of pressure,” he said. “We feel lonely. Many of us are the only kids of the family. We have very few siblings and even fewer friends.” He said he prioritizes the entertainment value over the selling numbers. “It doesn’t matter whether you purchase anything or not. Tens of thousands of viewers chatting together is an interesting thing in and of itself.”
2. He offers something viewers don’t know
“Over 90 percent of people in China, or in the world, haven’t seen the harvesting of pearls,” said Pearl Bro. With that simple observation, he captured the essence of the success of his project. He documents the traditional business while educating his followers about the many facts of the work that have been like a second language to him since childhood. Being a pearl expert, host and internet personality, Pearl Bro naturally and seamlessly connects with the young and curious on the internet, and has turned that into a boon for his business.
3. He makes expert use of the ‘live’ effect
By showing the process of opening a mussel, Pearl Bro lets his viewers engage in gambling of sorts. Viewers can buy a mussel for $8.48 (58 yuan) but have no idea what pearls they will receive. Live streaming is a perfect medium for it. Pearl Bro announces the auction time and asks followers to pre-order. At the time of the event, he addresses his followers. The process feels like the opening of a gift, filled with surprise and delight.