We-commerce

Anna Chernogolovina

All that is mine can become yours – this is the essence of the sharing economy, which has been gaining momentum over the last few years. PwC predicts that by 2025, its five sectors – sharing a home and transport, P2P-finance, online personnel search, audio and video downloading – will grow to $335 billion. Currently, 90% of sharing economy companies are based in North America and Europe. However, Russia and Asia have strong potential.


PwC forecasts suggest that by 2025, the economy of joint consumption will reach £9 billion in the UK alone. The EU has the same target: In June 2016, the European Commission recommended that member-states stop limiting companies that work in the sharing economy. Countries that hinder businesses of this new format will pay a fine. Primarily, this is, of course, due to money. These services brought about €28 billion to the EU budget in 2015. The Italian region Emilia-Romagna alone gained about a third of its GDP in such a manner; every two out of three locals participate in joint consumption.

The sharing economy has grown to such a scale that world maps that mark cities together began to appear. For example, the service ‘Shareable’ shows cities that use new technologies. They help residents exchance resources, spaces, and services with each other. Around 50 of them exist. Outside of Europe, North America, and Australia there are only three: Porto Alegre in Latin America; Nairobi in Africa; and Seoul in Asia. Why so few? What limits the new trend – only economic conditions and technological development? Or does the question lie in the mindset?

Stimulation and activation

In Asia, everything is only at its beginning. The population is very receptive to the idea of sharing their resources, whether it be a house, a car, or another object. According to Nielsen, 78% of people in the Asia-Pacific region are ready to rent out their own or lease somebody else’s, which is 10% above the global average. Additionally, 81% of Asians stated that they could do business under the principles of the sharing economy, which is more than anywhere else. On average, 66% of the world’s population would accept this role.

In China, the sharing economy is regarded enthusiastically, with 94% of smartphone owners supporting the new trend. The scale of this market reached 1.95 trillion yuan, and it is expected that it will grow by about 40% in the next five years. By 2020, this economy will be able to account for over 10% of GDP, thus Li Keqiang, chairman of the State Council, states that its development should be “promoted, a sharing platform should be built and the growth of technology enhanced.” The sharing economy already involves 500 million people, and the new phenomenon has been formalized in China – a committee for the sharing economy was created.

There are three components to the growth of this sphere in Asia. The first is that the income there is far smaller than in Western countries, so people tend to save. The second is related to population size: 4.16 billion people live in this part of the world. The third is the large amount of young people. According to the United Nations World Youth Reports, 60% of the world’s youth live in Asia, which makes 750 million people between ages 15 and 24. The Millennial Generation (born between 1985 and 2003) are the most mobile people on the planet, each of them with a smartphone with high-speed internet in their pocket. They accept innovations without skepticism, are less affected by advertisements, and believe that the use of things and services is more important than ownership. Furthermore, 49% of people in this age group are willing to the sharing economy’s services.

Another important fact is the growing number of smartphone users in Asia. Nielsen projects that by 2019, 1.48 billion people will be the owners of ‘smart’ gadgets in the Asia-Pacific region alone. According to Prana Chuleta, owner of the free ads website Quikr, the number of Internet users in India increased by 5.6 million people every month due to the spread of smartphones. This, he says, is more than in China.

Thus, sharing services are coming into demand in Asia pretty quickly. For example, Airbnb’s co-founder and CEO, Cesky Brown, described the prospects for the region as excellent in an interview. He is not the only one that feels good; so do his competitors, such as Travelmob, which allows you to find accommodation in Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, and other countries. According to the Harvard Business Review, companies of similar functional services were most in demand in China in 2015, namely Tujia, Mayi, and Xiaozhu.

Uber boasts similar success in Asia, with about 30 million trips made. However, it isn’t the leader in every country. In China, a large part of the market is taken by Didi Chuxing – with Apple investing $1 billion into it not so long ago. Didi is a joint company of two former competitors, Kuaidi Dache from Alibaba Group and Didi Kuaiche of Tencent. In 2015, it owned 80% of the market share of private driving services and 99% of taxi companies. The remaining 20% is divided between Uber (the only foreign player in the Chinese market) and Ucar. In India, matters are much worse for Uber: It was banned because of the mass protests that occurred after a driver raped his passenger. As a result, today, Uber only works in Delhi. Nevertheless, it paved the way for its local rival Ola, which now operates in more than 100 cities across the country.

In Southeast Asia, Uber is seriously lagging behind local competitors, such as the Singapore startup GrabTaxi Holdings, with the network covering 30 cities and six countries. According to App Annie, this is twice as many locations as Uber. The success of Grab is a consequence of the fact that the service takes into account the specifics of the market, and better understands the needs of local residents. It allows for cash payments, deliveries of small loads to remote locations (which is of importance for entrepreneurs), and allows users to call for motorcycle taxis. The latter is a huge plus, since it allows one to be mobile in overcrowded Asian cities. Additionally, Grab introduced a very popular service: cars available to those who take daily rides from Malaysia to Singapore. Therefore, Grab was valued at $1.6 billion in 2015, while Southeast Asia’s taxi service market as a whole was valued at $2.5 billion. It seems that there is nowhere to grow, but that isn’t the case. According to predictions by Google and Temasek Holdings, the carsharing market here will rise to $13.1 billion by 2025. What is the reason for this? The scale of Internet penetration. For the moment, many people in the region still do not have access to networks, and they cannot make use of the applications’ possibilities. But that will change.

TEACHER-STUDENT


Recently, an important trend is the ‘uberization’ of education. The soil for reform is fertile in this sphere. Teachers believe that their work is undervalued. Students believe that they overpay for education. This kind of contradiction creates fertile ground for services such as Course Hero. Its business model is as follows: Students request the content that they need, or leave a request for tutoring; they agree on the price with the teacher, and then receive knowledge (in one form or another). All are satisfied because, first, there is no intermediary in the form of a schooling institution, and secondly, busy professors are more likely to find time for tutoring as teaching from their apartment is more comfortable.

Another example of education’s ‘uberization’ is TeachersPayTeachers.com, a commercially successful service that makes life easier for some teachers and gives others an earning opportunity. With the help of this service, teachers can share their manuals and lesson plans with colleagues and get paid for it. The service has existed since 2006, and it takes a 15% sales commission. During this time, teacher-authors have been paid $175 million. Thus, TeachersPayTeachers.com quite successfully makes entrepreneurs out of teachers; the neologism ‘teacherpreneur’ (from teacher and entrepreneur) even came to be for this purpose. Teachers who generally accept education reforms with hostility only gain from the changes brought about by the services of the sharing economy – or at least the best of them do.

According to Nassim Taleb, a famous economist and trader, the future lies in such services. “From my experience,” he wrote on his Facebook page, “I can say that both pupils and teachers are becoming more engaged when there are no intermediary institutions between them. And their costs are lower.” Taleb gives short master classes to professionals, which last two or three days, but he is confident that education’s ‘uberization’ will lead to such courses taking less time, like, say two to three weeks. Students will start receiving certificates, and education will possibly soon become a collection microdiplomas.

Unmastered domain?

The Russian sharing economy predictably develops most actively in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Among the pioneers are not only Uber and BlaBlaCar, but also Russian Anytimecar, cleaning service Qlean.ru, and YouDo – the latter finds helpers to perform mostly but not exclusively small orders. Airbnb’s business in Russia more than doubled in 2015; Moscow was included in the top 10 cities by the number of bookings through the service.

The leadership of sharing economy businesses often publicly states that the growth rate is high, but does not disclose the number of orders and figures. In particular, these were Uber Communications Director Alexander Kostikov’s answers to the questions posed to him about the company’s results in May 2016 at the Moscow Urban Forum. Nevertheless, it is difficult to challenge the fact that Uber’s volume is growing. This is demonstrated, firstly, through the fact that in July 2016, Sberbank’s venture fund invested in the company, and secondly, that the company maintains an active dialogue with the Moscow authorities, and specifically, with the Department of Transportation.

In Russia, unlike in India or Thailand, Uber is fully legal; the company conducted a full audit and allows work only with vehicles licenced for passenger and luggage transportation. This means that Uber’s drivers are IPs or LLCs – that is, the company is in the same competitive field as Gettaxi, and Yandex.Taxi. “In Moscow, a user has more than one application on their smartphone,” says Alexander Kostikov. “He chooses the one that is more convenient for him at the moment, depending on when the given car will arrive – and that’s understandable. The difference between us is that we are a global platform and can be used all across the world.”

DRONE TAXIS

Obviously, taking a trip with Uber or renting an apartment with the help of Airbnb is nothing new for Europeans or Americans. If the citizens of Western countries can be surprised by a sharing service, it is by the unmanned vehicle service that Tesla Motors is working on today. Its owner, Elon Musk, expressed the desire to create their own autopark, start passenger transportation, and compete with Lyft and Uber. Moreover, self-driving cars should reach the mass market: Musk believes that people will become interested in them because there will be no more need to drive; you can sleep, read, and engage in other, more interesting activities.

Moreover, the Assossiated Press reported on 25 August that Singapore has launched an unmanned taxi service. The company, nuTonomy, reports having a high-tech fleet of six electric Renault Zoe and Mitsubishi i-MiEV cars. Each of the cars has six sets of Lidar detection systems that use a laser for spacial orientation. They also have cameras that scan traffic lights and barriers on the way. By the end of the year, nuTonomy wants to expand its number of unmanned vehicles to 12.

The French ridesharing service BlaBlaCar has had a good start in Russia. This is a community for long-distance transport-sharing. The driver takes along passengers who are going the same direction as him, and they split the fare. In less than a year, BlaBlaCar attracted one million registered users. And this goes not only for Moscow and St. Petersburg. According to a Vedomosti interview with founder Frank Masella, user intensity is also high in Novosibirsk and Krasnoyarsk. Demand for travel grows in the south during the summer, particularly in Sochi. The company regularly conducts user surveys, and 91% of people said that BlaBlaCar definitely helped them to save. Additionally, 74% believe that they will use the service in 2016 more actively than before, and 38% reported that over the past year, they saved between 2,000 and 7,000 roubles on trips due to the service.

It is expected that the ridesharing market has room to grow. Booking Group, whose core business is car rentals, is introducing Boombila to the market in March this year. This is also an online ridesharing platform, with the only difference being that one can not only find a companion for a trip to another city, but also a partner for leisure time. Booking Group also plans to attract at least one million users and is going to invest €1 million to €1.5 million into the project in two years. Booking Group estimates the Russian ridesharing market’s utilization is at five percent.

Investors believe the transport sector to be the sharing economy’s growth engine and that the rest will follow its lead. Sergey Azatyan, co-founder and managing partner of Inventure Partners, said at the 20th St.Petersburg Economic Forum: “We have invested in Gett, and the project became our first ‘Unicorn’ (the term means that the startup is valued over $1 billion – editor’s note). Busfor project, a long-distance passenger transport service, is going to be our second ‘Unicorn’. I see the potential in sectors such as education, financial technologies (banking service, payments, insurance), and medicine.”

Addionally, assitance search and domestic help services, such as YouDo and Qlean.ru, are gaining popularity in Russia. Qlean.ru is a website and mobile application where one can order cleaning services. The client chooses the time and services, pays for the order, and then can expect a cleaner to arrive. Currently, about 600 cleanings are booked per day. “While it is only two or three years ago,” says Roman Kumar Vyas, director of marketing and development of Qlean.ru, interacting with the audience at the Moscow Urban Forum, “to people who have seen servants and domestic aid only in Brazilian soap operas, the concept of external cleaning left an impression.” Qlean.ru can be considered a success, and one of its founders, Nikita Repeshko, already created a second project: Shelly, which provides manicures and pedicures at one’s home. The customer can select a service, press the button on their iPhone or on the website, and the service provider will come to their location.

RUSSIANS ARE TRUSTING


BlaBlaCar has launched an initiative to research the level of mutual trust between Russians on www.betrustman.com. Various social categories were tested, and it turns out that Russians are not as closed-minded, as they are often thought to be.

The outcome was assessed on a scale from zero to five. The level of trust between colleagues ranged from 3.6 to 3.8 points; trust toward family members and friends was about 4.7 points. The level of confidence toward strangers, information about which is available on the Internet, is 4.17. This means that the behavior of users in Russia does not fundamentally differ from users in other countries, and business where people interact with strangers have every possible chance of becoming successful.

What’s next? The sharing economy started with people opening access to two major assets that they have. They are the house (or flat) and the car. While their ownership was previously considered a privilege, the youth of today regard their possession as a financial burden. “If you look globally,” says Artem Ignatyev, Head of Localo project, during a Moscow Urban Forum session, “before the end of the 21st century, the number of the planet’s inhabitants will grow to 15 billion, all of whom cannot be provided with the same resources, especially with cars, that people use between four and eight percent of the time. The trend will reach other smaller items, and the future of the sharing economy lies in things. This is why we are working on a platform that will allow sharing things.” By the way, several such services already exist in Russia. For example, Rentmania site allows one to rent things for outdoor vacations – from bicycles to boats and tents – and SwopShop allows one to exchange or give away things that they no longer find useful. As of August 2016, more than 15,000 items had found new owners.

***

Today, much attention is directed at ‘uberization’ companies, not to mention investments. Such companies do not produce tangible assets, but are nevertheless doing something important. Their product is communication with minimal costs. In a single interface – which, in the user’s opinion, functions quite simply – they combine a variety of functions, including geolocation, payments, and remote management. This is an excellently written code for the offline real world.

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