Kuaishou launches research institute to better serve rural users

2 min read
Shen Dongshu (CEO of Leping Social Entrepreneur Foundation), Liao Xinzhong (writer), Kuaishou user ‘Bao Ge’ (truck driver), Kuaishou user ‘Yangzhu Xiaomei’ (pig farmer), Ma Hongbin (senior vice president at Kuaishou) (Image credit: Kuaishou)

Chinese short video app Kuaishou on Tuesday launched its new research arm, Kuaishou Social Impact Institute, that will explore the potential of internet technology in alleviating poverty.

The institute was established in partnership with academic institutions including Oxford University, Tsinghua University, and Peking University.

The company said rural users of the short video app, which now has 160 million daily active users (DAUs), generated around $2.8 billion in revenue in 2018. Overall, 16 million users have earned an income on the platform.

“We do our best to lower the technology threshold and allow more ordinary people to record and share their stories through short video streaming,” said Chen Sinuo, vice president of Kuaishou. Chen added, “through AI algorithms, we managed to more precisely match them [rural users] with others who share the same interests and hobbies.”

Through the new research institution, the company also hopes to further explore social e-commerce and how users in rural regions can better leverage the platform as a tool to increase their income. Kuaishou entered social e-commerce space last year by allowing users to open up shops within the app.

The company has been running pilot programs over the past year, offering social e-commerce education and resources to rural users.

For example, its entrepreneurship incubation program teaches users how to set up and run business operations on the short video app, which helped rural entrepreneurs generate $1.4 million in collective revenue last year.

The quick rise of social commerce in China points at emerging opportunities in China’s smaller cities and towns, attracting e-commerce companies like Alibaba, JD.com, as well as newcomers such as Pinduoduo and short video and live streaming apps like Kuaishou and Taobao Live. These apps have given a platform to users to promote and sell their products.

Making the Kuaishou a more “inclusive” platform has always been the idea behind the company’s research and experiments, said Ma Hongbing, senior vice president at Kuaishou.

At a press event in Beijing on Tuesday to mark the launch of the institute, a long-distance truck driver from the northern province of Hebei nicknamed “Bao Ge” told how he started a cooking show in his truck after being stuck in the traffic in nearby Shaanxi province for three days straight without decent food to eat. Bao Ge is a celebrity on Kuaishou and has over 2.4 million followers.

The company said the short video app’s algorithms give users living in remote and impoverished areas visibility on the app, enabling them to grow their audience and run an e-commerce businesses through livestreaming and short videos.

The new institute aims to fund research projects that explore new ways to improve life in the country’s impoverished communities through education, entrepreneurship, and social e-commerce.