Co-working spaces are a booming industry concept in China thanks to billions of dollars in funding. But how long before the lack of profits causes a shake-out? Walk into any of the most popular co-working spaces in China and you will instantly understand their appeal. They feel different to the average office, with their stylish designs, open office plans, laidback atmosphere, endless supplies of coffee and beer, and trendy young unicorn-hopefuls bouncing around.
Right up until the moment his company imploded, Ofo founder Dai Wei insisted he was building a corporate empire to rival Google.
But the young entrepreneur has now come to resemble a modern-day Ozymandias: all that remains of Ofo’s bike-sharing dream are the battered, unusable yellow cycles still littering China’s streets. The collapse of the Beijing-based startup, which just two years ago was valued at $3 billion, has captivated China over recent months.
Forget e-commerce. In today’s China, the smartest businesses are moving the digital revolution into the offline world as the boundaries between online and offline become increasingly blurred. The integration of information technology into our daily lives is allowing companies to apply advanced big data techniques to transform a range of industries previously considered relatively impervious to digital disruption. For businesses across nearly every sector, the key to future success now lies in three areas: data, smart systems and the sharing economy.
The sharing economy exploded in China this year, with companies for all kinds of shareable objects taking part in this new business model. While there are businesses familiar to Westerners—shared offices, cars and rides—there are also ideas that seem a little kooky, such as shared basketballs and umbrellas. Although some call it innovative, many realize these companies are just “rental 2.0” companies, assisted by digital technology. As the concept reaches fever pitch, however, it is also facing a reality check, especially as many firms, ballooned by venture capital funds, start to show signs of failing.
One could be forgiven for thinking that after purchasing Uber’s China operations, Didi Chuxing—which now boasts over 300 million users and over 80% of China’s market—would be on easy street. But things are never that simple in the Chinese market. Figures have shown Didi is losing users and drivers. Under strict Chinese local governments’ new policies, Didi may face bigger challenges than Uber China. Meanwhile more people cast doubts over its business model. Boasting a sharing economy model, car-pooling, the company now relies more on providing car-hailing services with prices lower than taxis to maintain its scale. Once the subsidies withdrew, users walk away.
The battle for car hailing market share has ended with Uber merging its Chinese business with local rival Didi Chuxing. The merger deal gave Didi a market share of nearly 90%. There are many worries and questions following the deal: will government consider it to be an absolute monopoly? Will passengers pay more and drivers being paid less? How will Didi manage to operate Uber China afterwards? To answer those questions we need to understand the history of Didi Chuxing—how it operated in ‘grey area’ and managed to beat so many other local competitors before it merged with Uber China—find the answer in our article.
Yidao Yongche was the first car-hailing business in China. At first, the company was badly affected by opposition from local authorities—but later on was hit by the rise of Didi and Uber China, which became popular through subsidies and low prices. In July, Chinese authorities finally legalized car-hailing apps and stipulated that unfair competition, such as steep discounts and subsidies, should stop. So will Yidao seize the opportunity and grow? Zhou Hang, CEO and founder of Yidao, talks about his company and the future of the “internet of cars”.
The sharing economy has gone from being a niche idea most familiar to Silicon Valley insiders to one that has reshaped our lives—you’d be hard pressed to find a city dweller who hasn’t at least taken an Uber or stayed in an Airbnb. But for all that expansion, the ideas underpinning it are not so well understood, a fact routinely demonstrated in the often fraught debates concerning what the sharing economy means for workers’ rights, traditional incumbents and the role of regulation. Rachel Botsman, co-author of What’s Mine is Yours: How Collaborative Consumption is Changing the Way We Live, explains the intricacies of this still nascent phenomenon.
Four-year-old online vacation rental site Tujia, which is valued at $1 billion, offers Airbnb-like services with unique twists suited to the specific needs, wants and quirks of Chinese travelers.
The sharing economy has been threatening traditional industries in the West. Now it’s gaining a foothold in China.