Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Chinese Sharing App Is Both a Boon and a Bane for Its Developers

Chinese App
Anybody can get their basketballs, electric scooters and rainbow-colored umbrellas online and nothing seems out of bounds in China's booming "sharing economy".

Where once Chinese consumers would look to shell out on items such as luxury handbags or cars, now they can rent them for short periods taking advantage of the explosion of mobile payment technology.

As ever with China, the numbers are mind-boggling: the shared economy more than doubled to 3.45 trillion yuan (US$ 505 billion) last year from a year earlier, according to official figures which projected average annual growth of 40 percent in the years ahead.

But experts warn that China, which has rapidly become a world leader in the concept, is oversharing, and some start-ups are going bust.

The fiercely competitive bike-sharing craze in China's major cities claimed what was widely reported as its first victim in June when Wukong Bike reached the end of the road with 90 percent of its bikes missing and presumed stolen.

The government has supported the sharing industry as a new growth driver as the overall economy slows, but there are signs Beijing is becoming wary and on Monday it asked local governments to come up with new industry regulations.

In Shanghai, where bicycles of all colors threaten to take over the streets, Claire Victoria Pan said she uses a gamut of sharing services for bikes, cars, Airbnb and co-working spaces.

"These sharing tools make life very convenient," said Pan, from Hong Kong but living in Shanghai, where she founded a wine-trading company.

"There is over-sharing, but it is just temporary. When a new thing appears it will expand quickly so that there is excess supply.

"But after a period of time people find that demand is limited, then the supply will naturally reduce."

Bike-sharing, in which users can pick up bicycles on the street and leave them anywhere when finished, has been a standout success since being introduced in the last two years and latest official figures say there are now 10 million such bikes ploughing the streets of China.

But with complaints soaring about bikes parked haphazardly and clogging up pavements, a backlash has begun.

In an attempt to get a grip on the runaway industry, authorities in Shanghai and Tianjin will impose regulations from October 1 mandating a bicycle service life of three years and requiring companies to hire at least one maintenance employee for every 200 bicycles, state news agency Xinhua said.

Wukong Bike, in the southwestern megalopolis of Chongqing, folded within just a few months and a few days ago Beijing-based 3Vbike packed it in after most of its bikes also went AWOL.

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