In September 2020, the three co-founders of Singapore-based Mdada, a social commerce start-up, did their first Facebook livestream to sell products. A year on, they can boast 500,000 Singapore dollars ($371,087) in weekly revenue, and they hit total revenue of 3.9 million Singapore dollars ($2.89 million) in just August and September of this year.
The secret, according to one of its co-founders: “entertainment.”
“You need to plan your show, because this is not just selling, this is info-tainment. Entertainment needs to be high, and that can be very challenging because sometimes even I myself run out of ideas,” CEO and co-founder Pornsak Prajakwit told CNBC’s “Inside E-Commerce.”
Together with co-founders Michelle Chia and Addy Lee, CEO Pornsak launched the company’s physical livestreaming hub in Singapore in August 2021, the first of its kind in Southeast Asia. It boasts 11 livestreaming studios and its own warehouse in the same compound.
The most expensive product Mdada has sold through a livestream was a Rolex Daytona Green Dial worth $120,000. To date, Mdada has garnered more than 5 million livestream views, with more than 28,000 followers. The company has grown to almost 30 employees.
Mdada declined to specify earnings figures but told CNBC that it’s profitable. The company’s unaudited revenue for the financial year ended Sept. 30 came in at about $15 million Singapore dollars ($11.1 million).
Mdada co-founders (l.-r.) Michelle Chia, Pornsak Prajakwit, and Addy Lee.
Pornsak said the company trains sellers, whom the company calls “key opinion leaders.”
Those individuals learn “exactly what to sell, when to sell, and who to sell to,” said Pornsak. “It’s all commission-based. So, the harder you work, the more you get.”
Pornsak said the longest he’s livestreamed in front of the camera in one stretch was 12 hours.
Commissions usually are 20-30% of the sale, depending on the product.
Push from the pandemic
Amid the pandemic, more companies have turned to livestreaming to reach customers remotely.
Fiona Lau, co-founder of Shopline, which helps small merchants set up online commerce, told CNBC that its merchant signup numbers increased 46% during the pandemic — with many of them adopting livestreaming in an attempt to replicate “human-to-human interaction.”
Citing the example of Alibaba’s Taobao Live session on Singles’ Day in 2020, which drew in more than $7 billion in transactions in its first 30 minutes, Pornsak said “this is where the future lies.”
Pornsak spent more than a decade in the regional entertainment industry, and he acknowledged that his familiar face helps business.
“People trust you. When you tell them, ‘This is something that I’m using, and I really believe in it,’ I guess it’s more believable compared to someone who’s not a known face,” he said.
Mdada ventured into the EU market in October, debuting a Mdada Travelogue series where it conducts livestream sessions as the team travels in Europe and introduces European brands to its platform.