Ownership is Going Out-Of-Style, as Technology-Driven Sharing Economy Gathers Pace

Harsh Dhand, Co-Founder & CEO, RENTSHER Headquartered in Bengaluru, RENTSHER is an online rental platform that enables users to rent a wide range of products & services that include Laptops, Projectors, Wheelchairs, Costumes, Event supplies, and many others.

Until very recently, the only reliable way to access particular goods or products was through the act of purchase. Owning the item meant outright procurement, and alternatives such as sharing or renting came with their own added complications and dependencies that made many consumers wary of using such services, even though they were cheaper than purchasing the product in question. The success of companies such as Uber, Airbnb, and Couchsurfer globally, and Ola & Zostel in India have shown that technology has been a game-changer in making renting and sharing more attractive than ownership by making the process convenient and reliable. While renting a room or cab is now proven, this article shows that renting products like laptops, desktops, projectors, event furniture, party setup, and medical equipment are also falling in the gambit of easy and accessible rentals.

Technology's Impact upon the Sharing Economy
The biggest roadblocks to renting goods as opposed to purchasing them have been accessibility and reliability. While renting would seem like the intuitive option for things you need occasionally, their availability at the point that you need them was a big disincentive. Further, there was an understandable wariness about renting goods, as they would not be new and might have any number of hidden defects or problems. It seemed, therefore, that the only way to have access to a particular item at the time you wanted it in a reliable condition would be to own it.

However, ownership came with its own problems. The cost of ownership often far exceeds the cost for short and medium-term rental, and the wear-and-tear & damages that a product
might suffer would be the liability of the owner. Storage is becoming a big concern, as anyone digging through their old belongings or closets would tell you. While these added significant inconvenience, most consumers would rather face these burdens than have to deal with not having what they wanted at hand, when they needed it - instead of having to go through a laborious rental process on every occasion.

Consumer preferences have shifted, as they have realized that renting can accord them access to products that would otherwise be well out of their budget

The creation of digitally-driven platforms that enabled much greater accessibility and convenience changed this incentive structure for consumers completely. Platforms that create easily accessible inventories that would be delivered and collected from their doorstep have made sharing and renting of goods & products far more appealing than before. The better services even took it upon themselves to guarantee that the products were of a good quality, obliterating the quality concerns of consumers. Using well-curated content on their apps and websites, they could provide their customers with a clear idea of the condition, look of the product in question, and bring the missing reliability back into renting and sharing. Further, the convenience of being able to push or click a button made the product available almost on-demand, and thus made renting far more attractive and convenient.

Technology,Sharing,& The Millennial Consumer
Lower barriers to renting and sharing for consumers have made it the go-to choice for the young millennial consumer in India and globally. Millennials are tech-savvy, abhor waste, love the environment, and want immediate gratification. Turning to their smartphones and ordering a product has become second nature to them, and the new renting paradigm has appealed to them the most. A PWC survey of U.S. consumers about the sharing economy showed that most consumers were aware of and had transacted in some form or the other with the sharing economy, especially through startups and digital platforms. Over 80 percent of the respondents agreed that it made life more affordable, convenient, and efficient. Even in India, newspaper reports confirm that millennials are happier to spend on travel and leisure than on commodity ownership.

A Brookings India report on the current and future state of the sharing economy in India indicates that by 2025, renting and sharing products would be worth $335 billion. Consumer preferences have shifted, as they have realized that renting can accord them access to products that would otherwise be well out of their budget, insulate them from the liability of depreciation or damage, and at a convenience that would have been impossible before the disruptive impact of technology. The lower cost of the renting economy also allows consumers to be more experimental, as there is no essential long-term commitment for ownership. A variety of Indian startups have begun to provide renting services for various items, and some horizontal rental marketplaces are offering delivery and pick-up services in addition to product guarantees. So, before you make your next purchase, consider how often you’re going to use the goods that you’re about to buy and see if it might be better to rent it instead.