Wheels of shar­ing econ­omy rolling across the globe

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS - By MA SI masi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

On June 15, at an ex­hi­bi­tion hall in Amsterdam, the Nether­lands, Hu Weiwei, founder of Chi­nese bike­shar­ing startup Mo­bike Tech­nol­ogy Co Ltd, was busy ex­plain­ing the com­pany’s phi­los­o­phy to govern­ment of­fi­cials from dif­fer­ent coun­tries.

The for­mer jour­nal­ist ar­tic­u­lated her views on how bike-shar­ing ser­vices can help ease ur­ban traf­fic con­ges­tion and build smart trans­porta­tion projects in Western cities.

They heard her in rapt at­ten­tion. They had heard of Mo­bile and its phe­nom­e­nal suc­cess in China. Just a day ear­lier, Mo­bike an­nounced it would place 1,000 bi­cy­cles on the streets of Manch­ester, Eng­land, by June-end, mark­ing its first ma­jor ex­pan­sion outside of Asia.

Mo­bike’s UK move came af­ter its arch ri­val Ofo Inc launched a pilot project in Cam­bridge in th United King­dom two months ago.

Funded by deep-pock­eted in­vestors, Chi­nese bike-shar­ing com­pa­nies such as Mo­bike and Ofo have notched up ex­plo­sive growth over the past year.

Their ser­vices, which al­low bi­cy­cles to be rented us­ing a smart­phone and parked any­where af­ter use, have re­de­fined short-dis­tance travel in China, and spawned fierce competition for mar­ket share.

The mar­ket is now ex­pand­ing, en­com­pass­ing the globe. Chi­nese play­ers are scram­bling to woo denizens of global cities where crowded streets and the de­sire for zero-emis­sion trans­port are ex­pected to make bike-shar­ing pop­u­lar.

“Bike-shar­ing is a Chi­nese in­no­va­tion, dif­fer­ent from pre­vi­ous tech­nol­ogy fads learned from the West. We’ve the scale and ex­pe­ri­ence to help foreign con­sumers ben­e­fit from our in­no­va­tion,” said Hu in a tele­phone in­ter­view with China Daily af­ter the Amsterdam event.

Last month, the three­year-old com­pany re­ceived more than $600 mil­lion in fund­ing from in­vestors, in­clud­ing in­ter­net heavy­weight Ten­cent Hold­ings Ltd.

The money will be used to fi­nance Mo­bike’s over­seas ex­pan­sion. Mo­bike is eye­ing 200 cities where it wants a pres­ence by this year-end. It cur­rently op­er­ates in more than 130 cities in China, and Sin­ga­pore and Ja­pan.

Ofo, which is backed by China’s largest ride-hail­ing com­pany Didi Chux­ing, also an­nounced am­bi­tious plans of march­ing into 20 coun­tries by this year-end. It al­ready has a pres­ence in Sin­ga­pore, Kaza­khstan, and a pilot project in the United States.

“In stark con­trast to the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion of Chi­nese in­ter­net play­ers that fo­cused on do­mes­tic growth un­til the mar­ket be­came sat­u­rated, Mo­bike and Ofo are far more aware of the as­pects

Bike-shar­ing is a Chi­nese in­no­va­tion, dif­fer­ent from pre­vi­ous tech­nol­ogy fads learned from the West.” Hu WeiweI, founder of Mo­bike Tech­nol­ogy Co Ltd

of glob­al­iza­tion and op­por­tu­ni­ties therein,” said Zhang Xu, a trans­porta­tion an­a­lyst at Bei­jing-based mar­ket re­search house Analysys.

“They are set­ting sights on the West for ex­pan­sion even when the growth mo­men­tum is ro­bust at home,” Zhang said.

Ac­cord­ing to Analysys, in April, Mo­bike had 20.7 mil­lion monthly ac­tive users. In com­par­i­son, Ofo was said to have 20.4 mil­lion monthly ac­tive users. Both com­pa­nies saw high quar­terly growth in numbers of users.

“Scan­ning the QR code us­ing my smart­phone to un­lock the shared bike is con­ve­nient and ef­fec­tive. A bi­cy­cle ride for short-dis­tance needs can save lots of time and en­ergy, es­pe­cially amid traf­fic con­ges­tion,” said Has­san, 30, from Pakistan, a vis­it­ing fel­low at Ren­min Univer­sity of China in Bei­jing.

Word of mouth and on­line so­cial me­dia mes­sag­ing has led to aware­ness of China’s shared bikes across the world.

Chris Martin, a UK en­tre­pre­neur who heads Mo­bike’s in­ter­na­tional ex­pan­sion depart­ment, helped ne­go­ti­ate the com­pany’s part­ner­ship with the Manch­ester City Coun­cil and Trans­port for Greater Manch­ester. The three sides are es­tab­lish­ing a vol­un­tary code of working to make sure that bike-shar­ing ser­vices op­er­ate in a way that does not in­con­ve­nience other road users.

“It took sev­eral months for us to com­mu­ni­cate with local au­thor­i­ties,” Martin said. “Start­ing with the ini­tial 1,000 bi­cy­cles, we hope to learn in de­tail how UK users dif­fer from their Chi­nese coun­ter­parts, and fine-tune our local strat­egy.”

Mo­bike is team­ing up with Ci­tyVerve, a UK tech com­pany, and tele­com ma­jor Voda­fone in build­ing an in­ter­netof-things plat­form to man­age its bi­cy­cles in the UK. Its data will be stored on Mi­crosoft’s cloud ser­vice.

Ofo is also cus­tomiz­ing its over­seas ser­vices. Yu Xin, co-founder of Ofo, said in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with China Daily that the com­pany re­designed its bi­cy­cle for Sin­ga­pore. It is also working closely with the local govern­ment to es­tab­lish over 100 pre­ferred park­ing zones, to pre-empt its two-wheel­ers get­ting piled up in heaps on the side­walks dur­ing week­ends and hol­i­days.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.