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By Ding Yi / Mar 20, 2020 01:44 PM / Business & Tech

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Luo Yonghao, founder of the niche and debt-ridden Chinese smartphone brand Smartisan, has announced plans to move into live-streamed e-commerce, a sector that has boomed as the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has diverted shoppers away from physical stores and toward online shopping websites.

The tech entrepreneur’s plan comes as many of China’s brick-and-mortar retailers turn to livestreaming to promote and sell their products to offset virus-related losses, which has caused plants and stores to shut down as people stay at home.

According to a statement published Thursday on his personal WeChat account, Luo said that his team will initially focus on selling digital products, “cultural” and “creative” products, books, and groceries via livestreamed broadcasts.

The high-profile businessman, who was once hailed for his savvy marketing skills, did not specify which online platforms he will use.

Currently, China’s livestreaming e-commerce market is dominated by Taobao Live — a livestreaming arm of e-commerce giant Alibaba — and several short video platforms such as Douyin and Kuaishou.

The number of channels and individual live-streams conducted for product sales and promotions on Taobao Live respectively ballooned 100% and 110% year-on-year during the period between January and Feb. 18, according to data Alibaba provided to Caixin.

Alibaba largely attributed the strong growth to Taobao Live’s Feb. 10 decision to remove some of the requirements physical stores must meet in order to do business on the platform amid the outbreak.

In November, Luo was placed on a government blacklist barring him from purchasing luxury goods and services such as booking flight tickets and staying in upscale hotels after a Smartisan subsidiary he controls was unable to complete a payment of an undisclosed sum to an electronics company.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (

Related: Debt-Ridden Smartphone-Maker’s Eccentric CEO Placed on ‘Restricted Consumption List’

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