The new trends of sharing economy in China

8 min read 

Anything is possible in business.

The “Sharing economy” has penetrated into every aspect of life: sharing bicycle, sharing umbrellas (which though proved to be a failure within only one day.) What are the problems behind this seemingly endless economy model? And where do we go from here?

2016 truly was the year of “sharing economy”. From 2016 to 2017, almost all ventures built their core business around this phenomenon. At that time, it became the hottest buzzword around.

Speaking of “sharing economy,” we have to mention Uber and Didi, both embroiled in a money war that went on for 8 months between the old-established travel magnate and the new generation of capital investors. In total, $1 billion went up in smoke, proving that the madness of investing in “shared travel” left behind a bitter impression for the Chinese entrepreneurs.

If Didi and Uber is the fire of Prometheus in China’s sharing economy, then ofo and Mobike ignited the bicycle frenzy, proving that the “shared economy” served as a form of enlightenment for a lot of entrepreneurs.

In just 10 months, capital investments for Mobike and ofo exceeded $1.7 billion.

This capital investment hype has allowed Chinese entrepreneurs to “share” their mania. A variety of projects popped up everywhere overnight, intrinsically focused on this “sharing” idea.

To this end, Tencent Business has published statistics on the current sharing market, essentially offering a panoramic view on this “sharing economy” phenomenon. With some insightful point of views, Tencent hopes to give entrepreneurs something new to think about.

Sharing the economic industry sectors

Following their statistical analyses, Tencent has discovered five high-potential sectors related to “sharing economy”, respectively:

  • Clothes sharing
  • Kitchen sharing
  • Accommodation sharing
  • Trip sharing
  • Power sharing

First of all, let’s take a look at the most popular travel idea prospects in the sharing economy.

Trip Sharing field

In addition to the growth of Didi, there are several sub-sectors:

1. Bicycle sharing

Currently bike sharing is actually a time-sharing project. Each brand offers a wide range of bicycles and lets the customer decide when to rent, which offers an adequate solution for the last leg of the customer’s trip.

Major players: Mobike, ofo

Financial situation: Some players have reached up to six rounds of financing, securing funds of up to $600 million.

2. Motorcycle sharing

The business of sharing motorbikes strives for a hybrid drive of the physical and electric powers to solve the users’ problems but overlaps the one of sharing bicycles.

Major players: Cyou, Number 7, Little Honey (Xiaomi Electric bicycle)

Financial situation: Financing reached the series A round, with the highest single investment being of around 50 million RMB.

3. Car sharing

The essence of car sharing is car time-sharing rental through a large number of cars, to provide users with real-time, short-distance travel services within the city.

Major players: TOGO, GoFun, EVCard, Leshare

Financial situation: Financing reached the series B round, with the highest single investment being of around 40 million RMB.

4. Shared parking spaces

Shared parking spaces at the end of the trip, such business projects, mainly oriented towards C2C and B2C. Linking up with existing car owners to provide a user with ample parking space. This efficiently uses the city’s idle resources to solve the parking problem.

Major players: Uchewei, Airparking

Financial situation: Financing reached the series A round, with the highest single investment being of around 12 million RMB.

Power charging field

Shared charging is currently divided into two types:

  1. Automotive

  2. Mobile phone

The essence of the above-mentioned types is also a time-sharing lease, through a large-scale installation of charging stations that allow the users to rent a more convenient solution to their energy deficiency.

Major automotive players: Eyuechongdian, Evcharge
Financial situation: Financing reached the series A round, with the highest single investment being of around 30 million RMB.

Major mobile phone players: Xiaodian, Laidian, Ankerbox, Hi Dian

Financial situation: Financing reached the series B round, with the highest single investment being of around 350 million RMB.

Clothes sharing field

The basic model of clothes sharing is B2C, mainly servicing women with brand-name clothing or brand-name packages, through timely rental to individual users.
In foreign countries, similar business models have already achieved series A round financing, but the Chinese market has yet to catch up.

Major players: Dora’s Dream, MSParis, yi23

Core business: dress rental, regular clothing leasing, luggage rental

Financial situation: Financing reached the series A round, with the highest single investment being of around 20 million RMB.

Accommodation sharing field

The basic model of shared accommodation is mainly C2C and B2C, creating economic value by linking up the free housing resources with potential home-seekers. The clear leader in the field of foreign accommodation is Airbnb, currently valued at more than $31 billion. They employ a C2C model that is built around an independent credit system, while domestic entrepreneurs, besides C2C, also have a traditional housing intermediary to provide customers with short-term rental services.

Major players:Xiaozhu Duanzu, tujia, Mayi Duanzu

Financial situation: Financing reached the series E round, with the highest single investment being of around 300 million RMB.

Kitchen sharing field

Kitchen sharing is based on a C2C model, the LBS-based positioning system, and allows cooking enthusiasts to share their meals through distribution or door-to-door transactions. This provides comfort meals and more to those who are unable to cook due to their busy working schedules.

Major players: home-cooks

Financial situation: Financing reached the series C round, with the highest single investment being of around 10 million RMB.

 

In addition to these top five sectors, we have also defined a new industry in the travel area – umbrella sharing

Umbrella sharing

The customers in this category usually take on a time-sharing lease, following the B2C model, in the subway stations, business districts, residential areas, campuses, hotels and so on.

Major players: Molisan, JJ Umbrella, Sharing E Umbrella, Bamboo Shoots

Financial situation: Financing from angel investor, with the highest single investment being of around 10 million RMB.

 

After taking inventory of five major sharing areas and its 10 subdivision industries, we have summarized the whole “shared economy” at present, and have found some problems combined with relevant information.

Summary and problem analysis of sharing economy

The nature of sharing economy

From a current point of view, there are some differences between China’s “sharing economy” and those found in foreign countries. The foreign shared economic start-up culture mainly provides the platform, linking idle resources and potential customers. On the other hand, the domestic start-up companies are mainly built around the B2C model, offering a large number of products. They allow the user to rent or buy, which ultimately leads to time-sharing lease as the core of their business.

Currently problems exposed by the sharing economy

1. Occupy and ultimately waste public resources

The essence of the shared economy is to improve utilisation through reuse and recirculation of unused resources. But in the domestic shared market, it creates waste and confusion by propping up large amounts of idle resources, which contradicts the original intention the shared economy.

For example: the subway, under the bridge… there are many locations where bicycles are discarded, not only creating idle resources in the process, but also causing the nullification of human resources and even adding to the ever-growing heap of waste.

2. Common ideas, lack of innovation

Take bicycle sharing for example. Ever since mobike and ofo gained capital, and rose to prominence, all kinds of bicycle companies are swarming the market. And now, according to unofficial statistics, more than 35 bike sharing start-ups have taken to the streets. One by one, they only contribute to an increasing palette of colours, instead of trying to innovate on their core business.

Though what is more even more frightening is the cross-platform “reference” project. Take umbrella sharing as an example, not only is their urban project management in a bind, these projects are still faced with theft, loss and adoption difficulties. Yet, these problems did not encourage the project owners to rethink their approach. Their mantras are always “we count the loss in business as charity to the public” or “our aims are always half commercial, half charitable.”

3. National quality needs to improve

We have to face it, shared economy is a test of national quality. From now on, whether it’s a shared bicycle, sharing the rent or shared automotive charging, all users need to be own up and care about the products. But for now, there are still many shared items that are being destroyed or claimed as private property. Knowing the circumstances, it is not the best time to develop a shared economy.

4. Lack of standards for supervision, difficult to recover after disputes

As it stands, with the large-scale commercialisation of products, regulations and legal liability issues are still in the dark.

Take bicycle sharing for example. On June 6th 2017, the Shenzhen police intervened after an ofo user crashed into a pedestrian. After investigating, the accident turned out to be caused by a faulty brake, causing a heated discussion on how to determine responsibility in such cases.

Whether it’s an explosion of the industry, or the current market environment, it is not the best opportunity to start a business just for the sake of “sharing”. Identifying user pain points, establishing effective barriers, and finding viable business models is a sure-fire way to start a business, regardless of the hype surrounding the shared economy.

 

This article originally appeared in Tencent Entrepreneurs and was translated by Pandaily.

Click here to read the original Chinese article.

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