China’s sharing economy has veered sharply away from how the term was originally defined: as a peer-to-peer exchange of underutilized goods and services. Whereas, in China, “sharing” now means almost any short-term rental of a product or service activated by a smartphone and a QR code.
China already has 12 unicorns—private firms valued at $1 billion or more—which is more than any other country. These include top players such as Didi Chuxing, which bought Uber’s China division in 2016, and is now the world’s largest ride-hailing company.
Newer Chinese unicorns include Mobike and Ofo, two free-floating bike sharing firms that innovated on a familiar model by allowing customers to park their bikes anywhere, in contrast to the more limited, dock-based systems in Europe and the United States.
Have you heard about 熊猫遛娃 ? Probably not ! « Panda Baby Stroller » is actually a new stroller-sharing platform developed in 2017 by CEO Zhao Wei. So, how does it work?
First get the wechat mini QR code program
Then use the mini program to locate a station
Customers scan the QR code located on the station with their smartphone and pay 5CNY (0.7$) an hourly rate plus a small deposit through Alipay or WeChat Pay—two popular Chinese mobile payment apps. And it’s actually free if you use it less than 10 minutes. Once the payment has been completed the user can unlock the hand-stroller and leave. Finally, when the ride is over the user can use his phone to find the nearest station and return the stroller.
This concept was developed for the growing Chinese middle class, that don’t want to buy a stroller and prefer to rent one when necessary, although the younger Chinese generation is more consumption-oriented than its predecessors, according to McKinsey, in 2012 54% of China's urban households were considered "mass middle" class, meaning they earned between US$9,000 and US$16,000 per year. But by 2022, thanks to a growing number of higher-paying tech jobs in the service industry, 54% will be classified as "upper middle" class - meaning they will earn between $16,000 and $34,000 a year.
None of China’s bike-sharing companies are turning a profit yet. But even as they fight for market share, the data is the destination. “Collecting data is the first goal of the sharing economy,” so we could ask ourselves if this model is either economically viable and - or sustainable for the environment.
Let’s hope that this concept doesn’t end up like Sharing E Umbrellas when users kept their rentals and in few days the company had lost 90% of its assets.