Technology and changing views on ownership is driving the growing popularity of `sharing’ across all aspects of Indian work and life
Though the term ‘Sharing Economy’ is relatively of recent vintage worldwide, the concept has been a part of Indian urban ethos for a long time. Cities like Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai were built in the last century on the backs of migrants who travelled from various parts of the country in search of a job and lived in shared accommodations, sometimes dozens to a room, and were fed in mess halls serviced by common kitchens. Another example is the shared taxi services that have long prospered in cities like Mumbai, where commuters would share cabs not just from train stations to their offices and back, but also between cities like Mumbai and Pune.
The dawn of the internet age, especially the mobile revolution combined with the fact that a new generation of Indians don’t attach too much importance to the concept of ‘ownership’, has led to the `Sharing Economy’ coming into focus once again. Increased connectivity has paved the way for people to share almost everything --- from work spaces, the homes, to kitchen appliances, furniture and even clothes. Startups that facilitate this `Sharing’ are now everywhere.
The most visible manifestation of this fast growing sector of the economy is the app based shared taxi rides offered by the likes of Ola and Uber in cities across the country. According to a recent report in The Mint, shared rides account for 25 to 30% of overall trips made by Uber and Ola in major cities. The number of people opting for pooled rides has grown more than five times in the last two years, and with these cab companies cutting prices to attract more commuters, the growth rate will be even faster in the coming months and years.
Shared rides are undoubtedly the future in big cities. This can be seen by the fact that Ola and Uber’s domination of the segment is now being challenged by a whole host of newer companies. Zipgo, for example, is a shared on-demand bus service that offers daily commuters rides at rates that are as cheap as Rs 3 a km in cities like Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai. Smartmumbaikar.com is another company that is offering something different. For a monthly fee, it connects private car owners in Mumbai who drive to work every day with people who want to share a ride with him or her at a pre-determined fee. The whole thing works seamlessly via Whatsapp groups.
With more and more youngsters looking to doing stuff on their own rather than working with someone, another big offshoot of the new ‘Sharing Economy’ phenomenon is the increasing popularity of co-working spaces. These are full-service offices where individuals and small groups can hire a work space in the form of tables or cabins for short periods of time. International operators like WeWork and Regus and dozens of local companies like, CoWrks and Awfis are among the many that offer this service in cities across the country.
According to the findings of a recent study of the potential for co-working in India by real estate firm JLL and WeWork, and quoted in the Indian Express, the business “…is expected to receive $400 million in investment by 2018, and is set to grow by 40-50 per cent to reach over one million sq ft of leased `alternate’ work spaces by the end of the year in India. With office rental costs continuing to rise across India’s business districts, the total space leased by co-working operators in top cities could potentially stand at nearly 7-9 million sq ft by 2020.”
Hospitality is another industry that is booming as a result of the increasing popularity of `Sharing’. Homestays have always existed in India, but the arrival of Airbnb, the online market place that enables people to rent their homes and apartment to short-term lodgers has given it the kind of boost that is revolutionising the whole business. From the foothills of Himalayas to major cities across the country, from the beaches of Goa to the tea gardens in East India, property owners are now offering their flats, farm houses, beach bungalows, plantation houses, etc. on rent on Airbnb. No wonder that Brian Chesky, CEO of the American company, sees India as one of the key revenue generators in the coming years. As he told the Economic Times, “The reason I am incredibly excited is, say in about ten years from now, it will be one of the world’s biggest markets for Airbnb.”
The entrepreneurial Indian is not stopping at cabs, co-working spaces and homestays, when it comes to taking advantage of India’s growing affair with `Sharing’. They are taking it into areas that were hitherto unimaginable. `Rent It Bae', and `Swishlist’ are Delhi based companies that allow you to rent designer and everyday clothing for a monthly subscription. Fabrento, Rentickle and Furlenco are companies that allow people to rent furniture and appliances. Similarly, there are companies in Mumbai and Delhi that have made it easier for women to rent luxury bags.
The list of things that one can rent and hire is only going to get bigger in the coming years. It looks like ‘Sharing Economy’ is here to stay and prosper.
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