Backed by a torrent of venture capital, China has gone sharing mad with everything from treadmills to karaoke booths and napping capsules all up for short-term rent – and at the click of a smartphone.
With the boom spawning some novel ideas but also warnings of a sharing “bubble” in the world’s second-largest economy, here’s a number of the services that have come (and gone) in China in the last 18 months.
Beaming in blue
A company in the northeastern city of Shenyang is rolling out a first batch of royal blue BMWs for sharing. Like the bikes, users scan a QR code with their mobile phones – and bingo! A snazzy BMW 1 Series is yours for the rental fee of 1.5 yuan (HK$1.80) per kilometre, plus the 999 yuan deposit.
Brightly coloured bicycles kicked off the sharing craze last year and have since threatened to take over pavements and streets. That sparked a backlash and Beijing and Shanghai are among the cities that moved to lay down regulations. At least two Chinese bike-sharing services have gone bust and it is not uncommon to see officials carting bikes off to a fate unknown.
Treadmill in a box
Forget the sweaty gym and look no further than a grandly named “shared sports warehouse” – actually a treadmill inside a black-and-yellow glass-encased box. The company behind the scheme, which just launched, says there are 10 of the pods in Beijing.Thankfully, they come complete with air conditioning, plus a television to break the monotony.
No need to head home for a rest – instead, pop in for a snooze at a shared napping capsule (you don’t actually share it at the same time as a stranger). But no sooner had these cosy coffin-type structures popped up, the company behind them had a rude awakening when Shanghai authorities quickly closed them down and dismantled them, citing them as a fire risk.
Life of luxury
Experts say that while China is becoming increasingly wealthy, many people remain very cost-focused. So rather than shelling out for the handbag of your dreams, why not just borrow one? Companies renting out top European-brand handbags say it also means users are guaranteed that they are getting the real thing, not a cheap knock-off. Just don’t spill any wine on it.
Karaoke (KTV) booths are springing up in shopping centres and subways, taking China “by storm”, state media says. Thankfully they are more or less sound-proof, meaning wannabe pop stars can croon away as loud as they want, and the pods allow you to record yourself and upload your performance to your phone – so you can show off to/annoy your friends.
There are other things you can share in China: electric scooters, phone chargers, workspaces, umbrellas and basketballs.