In olden days, homes in India had a kind of platform at the entrance to the house. Family members could sit on this and observe life on the streets or have a chat with neighbours. This platform was primarily meant for travellers to rest overnight and continue on their journey the next day. The idea of sharing has been around a long time in India. We share our food and we invite total strangers to our home for a meal. Somewhere down the line, urbanisation has made us lose our openness and become a more closed people.
But all is not lost! The internet is connecting people together in a big way. All consumption can now be shared. Anyone who has an extra bed at home can advertise it on the net and find a person who has need for a bed for a day or two or longer. The arrangement is mutually beneficial. Many websites and e-commerce players have established themselves on the internet to make sharing possible from anything like a car ride to furniture. Any item which has outlived its utility in one home can find another. Why, we can even find a home for a pet.
For example, a city to city ride is quite expensive and fuel cost can be rather high. If you are going by your own vehicle and have one or two spare seats, you can advertise it and find one or two companions for travel. Anyone who needs to travel to the same city can get in touch and strike an arrangement. It works out cheaper and more convenient for both parties. The prices are often regulated by the website to ensure that commercial players do not hijack the scheme.
A sharing economy has the capacity to reduce the overall consumption level of the country. It is environment friendly as it can reduce the strain on resources. Wastage is reduced and it ensures better utilisation of resources. While the concept itself is well entrenched in the Indian mind, the internet is allowing it to become more organised. This is a relatively new concept that has been gaining popularity over the years.
The western world has adopted this method to great advantage and there are a number of websites which help in sharing. Airbnb offers beds, rooms, or whole houses for sharing. TaskRabbit connects people who are willing to do any kind of task – from house cleaning to office jobs – to those who have such jobs to offer. SnapGoods allows homes to share high end equipment like cameras and musical instruments. BlaBlaCar, a city to city ride sharing portal from France has made its entry into India and has notched up thousands or rides and seats hired.
This collaborative economy model is based on the premise of sharing idle products and it is estimated at 15 billion USD, and is expected to grow further. While the current market in India is geared more towards e-commerce where products can be obtained at great discounts, it is expected to eventually move towards a sharing economy, once that phase is over.