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Five young executives assume leadership at Douyin Group after Kelly Zhang’s departure

Written by KrASIA Connection Published on   3 mins read

Douyin Group is ushering in a new era with a quintet of young leaders, the youngest of whom hails from the post-90s generation.

On February 9, the eve of this year’s Lunar New Year, Douyin Group underwent a significant leadership change. Media reports surfaced indicating that Kelly Zhang (also known as Zhang Nan) has announced her resignation as CEO of the group, having undertaken the role for over three years, since 2020.

Over the past year, Zhang has been focused on developing CapCut, a video-editing app also known domestically as Jianying. Moving forward, she will devote most of her efforts on CapCut-related operations and explore the development of artificial intelligence-assisted products. She will continue to report to Liang Rubo, CEO of ByteDance.

According to sources close to Douyin, as various businesses within the group have matured, the company will no longer designate a CEO. Instead, the group’s operations will be overseen by five executives, including Han Shangyou, Wei Wenwen, Pu Yanzi, Zhang Chao, and Zhao Xiuying.

All five figures are relatively young figures, born in the 1980s or later, representing ByteDance’s intent to introduce a new generation of leaders at Douyin.

Han Shangyou

Born in 1991, Han Shangyou is the sole representative of the post-90s generation among the quintet. He graduated from the Software Institute of Nanjing University  in 2013, with stints at Tencent before joining ByteDance in 2016 to spearhead the Huoshan short video business.

In 2019, Han assumed oversight of Douyin Live following the establishment of an internal live broadcasting platform, propelling it from a niche feature to a premier live platform.

From mid-2021 onwards, Han expanded his purview to include Douyin’s lifestyle services and the company’s open platform. Despite pandemic disruptions, lifestyle services surged ahead, emerging as a vital growth driver for Douyin’s e-commerce arm beyond 2022. Douyin’s lifestyle services’ gross merchandise value (GMV) surpassed that of the entire 2021 within the first half of 2022, outperforming expectations by 44% by year-end. By the end of 2022, the coverage of Douyin’s lifestyle services spanned over 370 cities, collaborating with over 1 million partner stores and aligning with platforms like Ele.me, SF Express, Dada, and FlashEx, bolstering its ecosystem.

November 2022 marked Han’s elevation to the role of president at Douyin.

As president, Han will harmonize all Douyin-related core operations while retaining oversight of Douyin Live and the company’s lifestyle services business. He will report directly to Zhang Lidong, group chairman, who will continue his strategic engagement in Douyin following years of deep involvement in the business’ management.

Wei Wenwen

A Renmin University of China alumnus, Wei Wenwen joined Douyin Group in 2017, overseeing the commercialization of products such as Toutiao and Ocean Engine.

Assuming the mantle of president at Douyin E-commerce in May 2021, she has led sustained growth in the business. Though unconfirmed by Douyin, international media reports estimated Douyin’s e-commerce GMV at approximately RMB 1.41 trillion (USD 198.1 billion) in 2022. Notably, Douyin Mall’s business saw a meteoric 277% year-on-year GMV surge in 2023, with a 159% GMV uptick in e-commerce searches.

Pu Yanzi

Pu Yanzi, the longest-serving among the quintet, joined Douyin Group in 2013, initially focusing on commercialization and sales before ascending to the group’s commercialization helm.

In November 2023, Pu succeeded Zhu Shiyu as head of lifestyle services. Amidst Meituan’s robust counteroffensive, posing a formidable challenge to Douyin in the lifestyle services sector, Pu is poised to pivot toward in-store business, following Douyin’s recent downsizing of its takeaway business.

Zhang Chao

Entering Douyin Group in 2014, Zhang Chao initially served as a product manager at Toutiao. In 2019, using Toutiao as a springboard, he led the establishment of Tomato Novel (also known as Fanqie Novel) and Tomato Listen, subsequently propelling Tomato Novel to the zenith of China’s online reading platforms with a freemium model.

Assuming Toutiao’s leadership in October 2022, media reports indicated that Tomato Novel’s daily active users surpassed 90 million by October 2023, on the cusp of eclipsing 100 million. Having developed into an important part of the overall company, the Tomato line of products synergize deeply with Douyin and actively explore various areas including book publishing, IP adaptation into movies and television series, short dramas, and more. Some media outlets have claimed that Tomato Novels could expand the entertainment business landscape of Douyin.

Zhao Xiuying

Joining Douyin Group in 2019, Zhao Xiuying navigated various roles encompassing commercialization middleware, monetization technology, and industry products. In H2 2023, she became the head of commercialization R&D in China.

​​​​KrASIA Connection features translated and adapted content that was originally published by 36Kr. This article was written by Xiao Xi for 36Kr.


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