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From power banks to umbrellas to basketballs... they are all up for rent

Enterprising businesses are making convenience their selling point as they offer users instant access to almost anything they need or lack, from umbrellas in Shanghai (far left) to basketballs at a Beijing university (left). A customer in Shanghai sc
A customer in Shanghai scanning a QR code to rent a power bank. PHOTO: JOHANNES EISELE/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/ GETTY IMAGES
Enterprising businesses are making convenience their selling point as they offer users instant access to almost anything they need or lack, from umbrellas in Shanghai (far left) to basketballs at a Beijing university (left). A customer in Shanghai sc
Enterprising businesses are making convenience their selling point as they offer users instant access to almost anything they need or lack, from umbrellas in Shanghai (above) to basketballs at a Beijing university. PHOTOS: REUTERS
Enterprising businesses are making convenience their selling point as they offer users instant access to almost anything they need or lack, from umbrellas in Shanghai (far left) to basketballs at a Beijing university (left). A customer in Shanghai sc
Enterprising businesses are making convenience their selling point as they offer users instant access to almost anything they need or lack, from umbrellas in Shanghai to basketballs at a Beijing university (above). PHOTOS: REUTERS

Bike-sharing has seen phenomenal growth in many parts of the world and is expected to encompass 50 million users in China alone by the end of this year. Now, the Chinese are swiftly demonstrating that other things can be shared as well.

POWER BANKS

More than 15 start-ups in China have jumped into the fray, offering a power boost for hungry devices at train stations, shopping malls, restaurants and barbershops. For 1 yuan (20 Singapore cents) an hour, customers can rent a power bank from a vending station, and return it at another station when they are done. Companies are installing over a million such kiosks in major cities.

The next hottest segment after bike-sharing, power bank start-ups attracted more than 1 billion yuan in venture capital investment in the month of May alone.

CARS

The country is home to over 40 car-sharing firms, which account for some 40,000 vehicles, most of which run on electricity.

Among the largest are Ponycar, which aims to put 10,000 electric vehicles in first-tier cities such as Beijing and Shanghai within a year, and EVCARD, which charges 15 yuan per half-hour.

 

Another firm that has made headlines is Togo, which debuted in Shanghai in January by putting Mercedes-Benz cars up for loan in the central business district.

UMBRELLAS

China's summer rains are more manageable now with the flood of new companies offering brollies for rent for as little as 1 yuan a day.

Firms such as Molisan have rolled out umbrella rental kiosks at Guangzhou and Fuzhou metro stations, while Hujie Web and E Umbrella hang theirs from kerbside railings in Shenzhen and Shanghai.

Despite large-scale thefts, the companies said they intend to roll out millions more umbrellas to major cities in the next few months.

Lim Yan Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2017, with the headline 'From power banks to umbrellas to basketballs... they are all up for rent'. Print Edition | Subscribe