Between 2000 and 2015, the initiatives related to the sharing economy accumulated an investment of 25,972 million dollars. The growth in this area has been unstoppable and Spain is now the European leader in the sharing economy, with 6% of the population offering products and services within the framework of this model, higher than the European average of 5%, according to the latest European Forum on the Sharing Economy held in Brussels.
To analyse this clear current and future trend, on 15th February, the Barcelona Campus of EAE Business School was the venue for the Management Conference entitled “Sharing economy, the social and economic trend with the real potential to shift us towards a more efficient society”. The session was run by Lucía Hernández, Strategic Coordinator of OuiShare Academy, who explained that, in her organization, “the main activities include training, community building, events organization, research and consultancy services to public authorities and private companies with respect to adopting the sharing economy model. We cover all of the activities related to training, MOOCs, content from all of the sectors, essays, etc.”.
The sharing economy is clearly a very topical phenomenon that generates a huge economic and social impact. To a large extent, it originated from the global recession a few years ago, “when the general public organized themselves to respond to their needs”, explained Lucía. The new relations, the importance of sustainability and the more affordable price for services are other reasons behind the expansion of such services. In this way, a member of the public becomes a producer of value, and deals and transactions are generated to provide offline experiences.
“The greater autonomy and participation there is among the members of the platforms, the more the sharing economy grows. The model is based on the values of sustainability, ethics and the distribution of wealth among all of the members”, adds the Strategic Coordinator of OuiShare Academy when explaining what falls within the definition of sharing economy and what does not. For this system to work, it is vital that there is a certain level of trust (in the idea, in the product and service platform, and in the user).
From Bla Bla Car to Percentil
Nowadays, practically all sectors have embraced this type of economy. “Now, insurance is making is taking its first steps in this respect and this is just the start”. At the conference, Lucía Hernández gave various examples of such platforms, because beyond AirBNB, the marketplace for posting, finding and reserving private residences which already includes 2,000,000 properties in 192 countries and 33,000 cities, there are many more cases.
Bla Bla Car, which connects drivers with free spaces in their car with passengers that want to make the same journey; Som mobilitat, which promotes new more sustainable forms of mobility; Eatwith, to eat in local people’s houses in each city; Wallapop, buying and selling second hand items; Percentil, second-hand clothing in good condition for children; and Gudog, for finding somebody to look after your dog. The key attributes of these platforms for consumers is that they offer transparency, have a greater range of goods and services on offer and promote social relations as they put users in contact with local people.
The traditional economy in the sharing economy. Future trends
Some traditional companies have denounced the unfair competition that platforms of this kind represent, as services are provided by people who are not professionals. One clear example is Uber being banned in certain countries or AirBNB’s services being restricted in Catalonia, with significant fines imposed. However, the rise of these platforms has led many traditional companies to decide to take part in this new economy, as Lucía explains. Examples include BMW, which offers car rentals of its models; Decathlon, which has launched Trocathlon, a free buying and selling service for nearly new sporting equipment between individuals; and the hotel chain Roome Mate, which has launched Be Mate, an apartment platform for private individuals.
The trend will be for increasingly personalized services to be offered, on the one hand, as well as more general services, on the other, such as AirBNB, which plans to become a global tourism service provider. Meanwhile, “it is interesting to see how some companies have become suppliers to these platforms, providing servives to the new companies and their users”, adds Lucía. This is the case of Bnb Sitter, in charge of welcoming guests to tourist flats, with freelance caretakers who oversee the check-in and check-out of guests, as well as the cleaning and laundry services.
When discussing the main problems that face the sharing economy, Lucía did not hesitate to highlight the lack of a regulatory framework, which leads to a significant legal grey area. As such, recently, the hearing related to Bla Bla Car’s activities ruled that it did not represent unfair commission with paid passenger transport. “This seems like the right decision to me. Whenever there is a technological disruption, there are parties that were around before who gradually have to adapt to the new reality”, responds Lucía Hernández.