Chinese umbrella-sharing firm remains upbeat despite losing most of its 300,000 brollies

Inspired by China’s bike-sharing schemes, company founder remains confident despite early storm

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 July, 2017, 5:12pm
UPDATED : Friday, 07 July, 2017, 5:46pm

The owners of a Chinese umbrella-sharing company have learnt that sometimes in business it never rains but it pours.

Just weeks after making 300,000 brollies available to the public via a rental scheme, Sharing E Umbrella announced that most of them had gone missing, news website Thepaper.cn reported on Thursday.

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The report did not say exactly how many items had been spirited away, but quoted company founder Zhao Shuping as saying the business was by no means a wash out.

After seeing the launch of bike-sharing schemes across the country, the Shenzhen, Guangdong province-based businessman said he “thought that everything on the street can now be shared”.

“We were really impressed by the bike-sharing model,” he said.

Although it costs the company about 60 yuan (US$9) for each umbrella lost, Zhao said he still plans to make 30 million of them available across the country by the end of the year.

Umbrellas the latest trend in China’s sharing economy

The company was launched in April – with an investment of 10 million yuan – and by the end of last month had been rolled out to 11 cities on China’s mainland, including Shanghai, Nanjing, Guangzhou and Nanchang, the report said.

In principle, the scheme works by members of the public borrowing umbrellas – from stands located mostly at subway and bus stations – for a deposit of 19 yuan and a fee of 0.50 yuan for every 30 minutes, it said.

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The report did not explain how people are meant to return the items, but instead quoted a philosophical Zhao.

“Umbrellas are different from bicycles,” he said. “Bikes can be parked anywhere, but with an umbrella you need railings or a fence to hang it on.”

Taking the brollies home was probably “best”, he said, as it meant that at least they would be “safe”.

Cars to batteries: is China’s sharing economy in bubble territory?

While the concept of the sharing economy has been gathering momentum in China, Zhao’s is not the only business in the sector to be hit by a rain cloud or two.

Last month, a bicycle loan company had to close after 90 per cent of its bikes were stolen.