12 July, 2017
An umbrella-sharing start-up announced it lost almost all its 300,000 umbrellas within three months - because people kept refusing to return the borrowed umbrellas.
The company has been rolled out to 11 cities across the country, including Shanghai, Nanjing, Guangzhou and Nanchang.
Sharing E Umbrellas hanging on a sidewalk fence.
Each lost umbrella reportedly costs the company 60 yuan, approximately 550 rupees, to replace.
"We were really impressed by the bike-sharing model", the company's founder, Zhao Shuping, told Thepaper. The concept was similar to those that bike-sharing startups have used to (mostly) great success.
"Umbrellas are different from bicycles", he said.More news: Federal Bureau of Investigation agent indicted on charges of lying about Robert "LaVoy" Finicum shooting
Still, the fact that most of his product has been spirited away, Zhao plans to forge ahead and expand the rollout of the program to include 30 million umbrellas throughout the country by the end of the year.
Zhao wasn't the only one inspired by the bike-sharing industry.
It's one of as many as 14 Chinese companies competing in the umbrella sharing space.
But it's a baffling business model dependent on unpredictable weather and forgetful people. However, many failed to return it to a designated point. China receives the most rain in the summertime, leaving little interest in the business during drier months. The Guardian suggests the fault lies with the company's founders: While a would-be umbrella user must pay a roughly $2.80 deposit and about $0.07 per half-hour of use, the paper reports no additional penalty is levied for failing to return an umbrella. But when it's not the rainy season, there's a question of whether there will be enough demand for the umbrellas for the businesses to stay profitable. For example, Sharing E Umbrella requires a deposit of 19 yuan, or about $3.
If Chinese cities are suddenly full of the same rainbow-colored umbrellas, now you know who to blame.