An online celebrity and a chicken farmer owner
"My name is Shang Yukang. I come from Chenxian county, Gansu province. My followers call me 'Chicken Bro' because I raise chickens."
In Shang Yukang's Gansu hometown, in northwest China, the average income is below the national poverty line. Like many others in his circumstances, when he turned 17, Shang left Chenxian county to find a job in one of the big cities, most of which are in eastern and southern China.
"My first stop was Beijing, and then I went to Suzhou, Guangzhou, and Fujian. In Beijing, I worked in a restaurant's kitchen. The boss was a deadbeat. I didn't get my pay for the last two months. In Suzhou, I worked in an electronic device factory. I worked on the assembly line and the life was so boring, I quit and went to Guangzhou… Finally, I went to Fujian to reunite with my parents. I learned how to drive there and earned some money. I earned about 5,000 yuan a month in Fujian. They thought it was a considerable income. With my savings I went back to my hometown and opened a chicken farm."
Shang speaks at the 'Kwai for Social Good' event on January 16, 2019. [Photo: Kwai]
Having failed to find a promising or interesting job, Shang decided to start his own business. Unfortunately, when the young man announced his plans, no one supported him.
"Whenever I went home, my grandma would scold me. They didn't support me. They didn't believe raising chickens in our hometown would make a profit when most young people were making a living in other major cities. Especially because I was young, they thought I was doomed to fail."
The young man says his grandma is stubborn. But maybe that's a quality he himself shares. Despite his family's opposition, Shang took the plunge.
"I acted first and thought about it later. At the time, my family had just built a new house. I secretly raised my first batch of chickens in the new house before they found them. It was too late to stop me from buying the chicks."
In fact, Shang's family did have some sound reasons to oppose his idea. He had never had any professional training and knew nothing about breeding poultry.
"For the first batch, I bought 500 baby chicks, and 450 survived. Despite all the difficulties, I made a profit straight away. Then I became overconfident and thought it was a piece of cake. But my negligence caused the second batch of 2,000 chickens to get infected with a disease and 1,500 of them died. This meant I lost about 20 thousand yuan."
He chose a chicken breed from Britain simply because he thought it was beautiful.
"I love those small animals. One day I saw a chicken by chance and thought it was beautiful. I had never seen the chicken breed in our local markets. I thought it was promising, so I decided to breed them."
It turned out that the decision was too hasty. Local people in that poverty-stricken county wouldn't buy Shang’s chickens, because they were more expensive compared to local poultry.
Feeling like a failure, the young man felt lost. Then his friend showed him a popular short video social network application, and Shang saw an opportunity.
"Things started getting better when I used the Kuai video App. About a year ago, I uploaded my first video recording the moment when the chickens hatched. It became a trending post and won more than 300 thousand views and a lot of comments. One viewer said he had never seen this before because he lived in a city. Many others asked me about egg prices. And sales boomed."
And it was the words of encouragement from strangers in the virtual world that were the most important thing to Shang.
"My most popular video got 13 million views, when I got chickens to line up in the shape of a heart and I sat in the middle. Actually, I had been upset after a fight with my grandma. She didn't support me. After I uploaded the video, to my surprise, when the video app users saw me in a bad mood and heard my stories, many of them wrote comments to voice their support."
The secret of getting chickens to line up in particular shapes is simple – you lay out chicken feed in particular lines on the ground. Shang's creative videos won him more than 40 thousand followers. He started getting orders from all over the country. Eggs and chickens produced in his farm were really popular in developed areas like Beijing and Guangdong. Sometimes he couldn't keep up with the demand.
"Before my hens even lay their eggs, they have been ordered by my followers."
Shang is still in his early twenties. He is now trying to kill two birds with one stone. His latest plan is to expand production by helping low-income families. He has become part of the "Kwai for Social Good". The program aims at encouraging online celebrities to help neighboring farmers to make a living.
"I have set up a chicken breeding center. Later I will distribute baby chickens to poor farmers. I will also give them technical support. Adult chickens will be collected and sold via online platforms. It is part of my efforts to reduce poverty. And our local government is supporting my plan."
As well as feeding chickens and increasing his sales, Shang says he will share his experience of using short video apps with villagers in his hometown, where most people haven't realized the huge social impact of video apps.
"I will teach them how to make short videos, which can promote local specialties. Many farmers have high-quality products, which usually see dull sales in local markets and huge demand in big cities. I want to make more special brands to be seen by people in urban areas. For instance, our county is famous for walnuts. Almost every household has a few trees. Most farmers sell their fruit to middlemen and earn a meager profit, while consumers have to pay a much higher price to buy them."
Short video apps such as Kuai and Douyin have become the biggest trend in China's social media. Millions of young people spend hours on these apps every day. Teachers and parents are worried about the new online sensation, because they believe watching fun, quirky videos all day is a waste of time. But Shang Yukang says he’s learned a lot via the video-sharing app.
Looking back at the early days, when he started breeding chickens, Shang admits he wasn't well prepared and knew nothing about it. Thanks to personalized content feeds on the app, Shang can easily discover videos shared by other poultry feeding industry insiders.
"I watched a lot of livestreaming made by other farmers. They often swapped experiences about feeding chickens. I learned a lot. Sometimes when I encountered problems, I would take pictures and send them to them. They would kindly answer my questions via direct message. Small tips offered by peers will save you a lot of trouble."
Shang says he has also seen many inspirational stories via Kuai.
"There are a lot of inspirational stories. I just love to watch them. For example, one handicapped man with just one leg shared his life story – how he worked hard on a construction site and carried materials there. When I felt lost, I would browse these videos, and I was inspired by everybody working so hard, so how could I be so sluggish? You can also find a lot of funny videos, or videos about cute pets, which will make you laugh when you are upset."