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Education firm finds fortunes via livestream

By CHENG SI | China Daily | Updated: 2022-06-14 07:37
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[A screenshot shows a New Oriental teacher livestreaming to sell agricultural products, books and daily necessities using both Chinese and English.]

New Oriental teachers trending online by selling in both Chinese and English

Embattled education training company New Oriental began trending on China's social media platforms recently, after its teachers started livestreaming the selling of agricultural products, books and daily necessities using both Chinese and English.

Anchors on the Douyin livestream channel Dongfang Zhenxuan, meaning Oriental Select, combine useful English phrases with the selling of products, such as providing the English translation of the product and commonly used sentences. The anchors' excellent pronunciation and grammar have garnered the channel an enthusiastic fan base and attracted millions of views. The knowledgeable and oftentimes amusing approach to selling products have led to netizens posting comments such as "It's a good way to spend money where you get a product and also some extra knowledge".

The latest figures from Economic View, a financial media outlet of China News Service, show that the Dongfang Zhenxuan Douyin account had 1.57 million new followers in three days from Friday. The account has over 3.37 million followers in total. Its sales volume was 17.7 million yuan ($2.64 million) over the same three days.

New Oriental used to be a tutoring titan in the domestic market, but faced the massive challenge of transforming its business model after authorities tightened up the management of off-campus tutoring in July, 2021.

The company's founder, Yu Minhong, said in a letter to the company's employees on June 1 that the firm has experienced great difficulty in its fiscal year of 2022, when the company's market value plummeted by 90 percent and its employees decreased to 50,000 from the previous 110,000.

"However, we've planned our new services in accordance with the government's policy. We've also set up Dongfang Zhenxuan, which has grown to be an important platform for selling produce and daily supplies," he said in the letter.

"It's quite an innovation and I am interested to see the livestreams," said Liu Minyi, a 28-year-old follower of Dongfang Zhenxuan. "I swiped the video on Douyin on Friday, in which the anchors are teaching the difference between shrimp, prawn and crayfish when selling these aquatic products. I followed them that day and watched their livestreaming show the last two nights."

She said the anchors not only teach English, but also philosophy when selling books. "They are quite knowledgeable, and it's still worthwhile to listen to their talks even if you don't buy anything."

Xiong Bingqi, director of 21st Century Education Research Institute, said in an interview with Seashell Finance, a finance media outlet of Beijing News, that he is not surprised that New Oriental went viral online as it has a strong online marketing capability. Its bilingual livestreams bring new experience to viewers.

However, he said that he has a "wait-and-see" attitude toward the future development of the company's livestreaming, as most livestream shoppers want to buy "cheap and cheerful" bargains.

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