Why has the sharing economy overturned the way we live and
work in six short years? Because it simply makes sense.
The ʻsharing economyʼ is a tech-enabled community of like-minded individuals who share goods, services and resources. But it has grown beyond this premise. What was once regarded as a niche lifestyle or attitude has grown to become the very way we live, work, travel, and initiate causes. In less than a decade, couch-surfing grew to become Airbnb and ridesharing became Uber, just as how the bookshop became Amazon and much more as the worldʼs online retailer.1
Even in a relatively low-adoption developing country like ours, we would have taken a ride on the sharing economy one time or another. Booking a ride with the Grab app makes you part of it. But hereʼs what it really feels like when youʼre all in.
Access without ownership
Youʼll be living mostly without long-term debt and commitments.
The sharing economy gives you access to things without the burden of ownership. Instead of planning your life on the premise of acquiring private property, cars and other assets, you are now paying for them as and when and where you need them. Instead of committing to yearly office rentals, you are now utilising co-working spaces only when youʼre preparing a proposal or drawing up the plans of a project; not when youʼre out and about meeting clients or travelling on business. And while youʼre away, you may want to rent out your soho on Airbnb and make some cash to cover the bills.
In big cities everywhere, Uber, Lyft and Grab have become the best ways to get around, because like you, everyone else is realising how maintenance costs, insurance and the price (and hassle) of parking just donʼt add up to the joy of driving your own car. Not surprisingly in the US, where the sharing economy is most matured, car sales suffered the worst first-half since 2013.2 But this realisation is also kickstarting companies like Fair and Borrow that are reinventing car-ownership into short-term leases, or what they call cars-as-a-service subscriptions.3 Much like Netflix subscriptions, you only pay for as long as you wish to own the car. Even traditional automakers like Volvo, BMW and Mercedes are launching subscription options to give the new generation what they can live with—access with less of the burden of owning something.4
If you travel a lot on cash, you can think of the new RHB Premier Multi Currency Visa Debit Card as your universal access key. With 13 Foreign Currencies in 1 Debit Card, you can make payments in most major countries in Asia, the US and Europe—in their local currencies—without the usual conversion fees. And with exchange rates locked-in, your money is safe from foreign currency fluctuations too. Now thatʼs one less worry to carry with you.
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Endless list of spaces, services, experiences
Unbelievably diverse options await you.
Because every individual is unique, so is his or her taste in the things that he or she puts up as a service on the sharing economy. This inevitably produces a myriad of experiences in different locations and forms.
You never go back to the same Airbnb because you want to try that other place with that other view of the city. Why are you extremely excited to seek out new places and meet new people? Because different co-working spaces, for example, can offer different peer knowledge and networking as well as opportunities to collaborate. Even with every new Grab ride, you never meet the same driver twice nor hear the same story.
Work-life-cash balance
Suddenly the 9-to-5 shackles are gone. And youʼve unlocked the independence and pride of working for yourself. Flexibility was what drove you into the sharing economy. Liquidity and absolute control of your own funds were the others.
Within the last few years, the traditional value chain has been broken and workplaces decentralised. Now with the flexibility of co-working space per day rentals, e-hailing and e-delivery at any hour, you can plan the time for work without losing the life you chose. How about Tuesdays to Thursdays for workdays, and long weekends till Monday for your loved ones? As far as the sharing economy is concerned, it is entirely up to you.
For all the cash you spend, the RHB Rewards Card rewards you best with up to 10 times the points on overseas spend, online & e-wallet, air miles, as well as entertainment and health & insurance. As part of the sharing economy, you also appreciate a more flexible and predictable cashflow. Built-in smart features such as Smart Pay, Smart Move and Smart Instalment can help you plan your day-to-day economy. There is also CashXcess, which allows cash withdrawals of up to 80% of your available credit limit on attractive rates and repayment periods.
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Transparency, not hierarchy
First of all, the middleman disappears. And so do the extra costs.
Because the sharing economy is peer-to-peer, you deal directly with the person who supplies the resource, goods or service, not the middleman. So not only do you enjoy near-zero marginal costs, what you see is what you get.
Here in the sharing economy, trust is currency. You would only rent an Airbnb place with verified photos just as youʼd only rent out your soho to someone with good reviews. And when trust is established somewhere along the process, you find meaning and satisfaction in interactions with strangers. In other words, you make new friends.
At the same time, you have started using Slack, a communication-sharing platform that allows you to work with remote teams very efficiently and transparently. Everyone sees what everyone else is talking about and doing—itʼs some sort of a Twitter for business. The name Slack itself stands for Searchable Log of All Communication and Knowledge, which means you can look up all that has been said and done about a particular project.5 Having greatly simplified office communications, it also has been known as ʻthe email-killerʼ.
Perhaps most notably, sharing a virtual office with workers across the network has been liberating for you. Where the culture of transparency prevails, hierarchy too disappears.
Every party benefits, including the planet
Somewhere, somehow, someone else needs your unused space, unhired services or empty passenger seat, and is willing to pay for it. A sharing economy maximises resources and minimises waste.
But sharing means much more to New York Time best-selling author Jeremy Rifkin: ʻWho could be opposed to the idea of collaborative consumption and a sharing economy? These new economic models seem so benign. Sharing represents the best part of human nature. Reducing addictive consumption, optimising frugality, and fostering a more sustainable way of life is not only laudable, but essential if we are to ensure our survival.ʼ 6.
As warm and fuzzy they may be, Rifkinʼs words point to one of our last opportunities to realise the original intention of a society—the sharing of resources where everyone benefits.
A social revolution?
The Internet gave us more than a new platform to interact, exchange and connect. It created an entirely new generation of people who began doing things fundamentally different from the way society has been doing for centuries. One of these things is co-sharing. As it expanded into various businesses and services, people started to see the benefits of access over ownership, peers over landlords, liquidity over debt, and sustainability over idleness. As a result, the sharing economy has risen into the mainstream.
The numbers speak for themselves.
Today Airbnb hosts over 2 million people a night, offering 6 million active users homes and sohos across 100,000 cities in all the countries in the world but four. Its recent internal valuation revealed a value of 38 billion dollars which effortlessly, and quite expectedly, surpassed brick-and-mortar Hilton at 25 billion.7 In the first quarter, Uber served an average of 17 million trips per day with 110 million users worldwide, double the annual figure just three years ago.8,9 For Slack, the virtual sharing office app, paying customers have more than doubled in 2017 with daily active users totalling 10 million.10 At each new quarterly report, we find tens of thousands more people in the sharing economy.
But perhaps what SoftBank Group Corpʼs chief executive Masayoshi Son said at a 2018 annual company event best sums up the sharing revolution: ʻRidesharing is prohibited by law in Japan. I canʼt believe there is still such a stupid country.ʼ11
What are the possibilities and prospects of investing in the sharing economy? Uber and Lyft went public at the NYSE this year with market caps of 70 billion and 22 billion US dollars respectively. Airbnb, with the internal valuation of 38 billion, is due to begin trading between July this year and June 2020. If youʼre an investor, you might want to discuss with your Relationship Manager on how to tap into their rise in the mainstream markets.
Sources: 1 World Economic Forum, What exactly is the sharing economy?, 13 December 2017. 2 Bloomberg, Carmakers Likely Had Worst First Half of Retail Sales Since 2013, 1 July 2019. 3 Huffpost, Are Car Subscription Serices Like Fair and Flexdrive Worth It?, 8 September 2018. 4 TechCrunch, The future of car ownership: Building an online dealership, 12 June 2019. 5 BBC News, Slack: Why is this loss-making tech firm worth $20bn?, 21 June 2019. 6 Forbes, Three Strategies For Managing The Economy Of Access, 2 May 2014. 7 Capital.com, Airbnb IPO: your guide to one of the most awaited IPOs of the year, 10 June 2019. 8 TechCrunch, Uber is finally trading above its IPO price, 5 June 2019. 9 Statista, Monthly number of Uber’s active users worldwide from 2016 to 2019 (in millions), 15 April 2019. 10 Reuters, Slack is loss-making but revenue continues to grow, filing shows, 26 April 2019. 11 Reuters, Japan’s tiny sharing economy still in its infancy, 25 July 2018.