The Chinese have started to embrace the sharing economy – a business model based on renting rather than owning. Think Mobike: a bike rental company with a presence across the nation (see WiC339).
Others contend that the concept can be taken too far. In WiC366 we reported on the rise of shared mobile phone chargers and the bearish views of some of its critics (including Wang Sicong, the son of one of China’s richest tycoons).
Other products have been getting the same treatment, including an umbrella renting business that has popped up in Guangzhou. Molisan (Magic Umbrella) charges its customers a Rmb20 deposit for a 15-day rental, after which the user can extend ownership by three days for free. After 18 days, customers are then charged Rmb0.5 a day. The firm intends to distribute up to a million umbrellas in Guangzhou this year.
Some people have praised the idea for its convenience; while others foresee that thousands of umbrellas will simply be stolen or damaged.
According to Reuters, the Chinese government expects revenues from the sharing economy to grow 40% this year, raking in Rmb4.83 trillion ($705 billion), and that the sector will account for 10% of GDP by 2020.
Will shared basketballs play a part in this future? Zhejiang-based Zhulegeqiu thinks so, and so do its investors, who have injected Rmb10 million in funding in the two months since its conception.
The firm, which keeps its basketballs in courtside lockers, already makes its services available in Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Tianjin and Chengdu, and it has ambitions to offer rentable balls at all of China’s 100,000 public basketball courts.
Quite what the makers of umbrellas and basketballs think of the sharing instinct goes unremarked in the media, but presumably they aren’t quite as keen.
Deriding the long-term viability of much of the sharing economy, some of China’s netizens have even been wondering if “shared girlfriends” might soon join the start-up world. And to an extent the answer is that they already have. An app is already available called “I want to rent someone” where people offer their time and their talents for a fee.