Driving Singapore's Sharing Economy

Sharing Economy Association members (clockwise from left): Ryan Tan (Leendy), Swito Yuber and Fenni Wang (Rent Tycoons), Eugene Tay (Waste is not Waste), Moh Hon Meng (BlockPooling), and Professor Costas Courcoubetis (SUTD).

Sharing is caring. Waste not want not. Reduce, reuse, recycle.

These age-old mantras rang through my head when I start penning this blog post on the recently launched Sharing Economy Association (Singapore). Beginning in Singapore, the association hopes to become the "regional hub for companies and organisations involved in the sharing or collaborative economy which is an emerging economic model of sharing of physical and non-physical resources that is empowered by technology and social networks".

Brainchild of Eugene Tay, founder of Green Future Solutions in 2007 and a mover and shaker of our green movement, the association's founding members are stalwarts of social sharing, renting, lending and swapping enabled by social technologies. They are:
  1. Rent Tycoons - a portal dedicated to peer-to-peer (P2P) rental of items in Singapore;
  2. iCarsClub - a P2P car rental and sharing platform, zoned by areas;
  3. BlockPooling - a social network encouraging mutual sharing, lending and help amongst neighbours living in the same block;
  4. Leendy - a platform allowing you to swap and exchange items with others;
  5. PandaBed - a "couch-surfing" platform (similar to airbnb) allowing travellers to stay in homes; and
  6. Waste is Not Waste - a free online business waste and material exchange platform.
To find out more about the sharing economy as well as the objectives behind the association, I had the privilege of interviewing Eugene Tay, President of the Sharing Economy Association (Singapore). Join me now as we pick the brains - and heart - of this passionate yet genial advocate for the environment.

How do you describe the "sharing economy"? What inspired you guys to embark on this journey?

We describe the sharing economy (also known as collaborative consumption) as an emerging economic model of sharing of physical and non-physical resources that are empowered by technology, peer-to-peer and social networks. Sharing also covers renting, swapping, lending, and gifting.

The initial idea of collaborative consumption or sharing economy started from the book What's Mine Is Yours by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers in 2010. Around the same time, The Mesh by Lisa Gansky (see my book review here) and the Shareable website also talked about similar ideas on sharing. Most of our members were inspired by Rachel's book and her TED talk.

What inspired you guys to band together to form the Sharing Economy Association? What does the association do for its members?

I'm always looking out for new green and business trends and ideas, and the sharing economy is one of the trends that I'm interested in. Last year during Earth Day on 22 Apr, I organised a public talk at my office and invited Rent Tycoons and iCarsClub to speak about the sharing economy.

After the talk, we were discussing how to spread awareness about the sharing economy and support the companies involved, and decided that maybe we should set up a business association. One year later, we are officially registered on 21 Apr 2014 with 6 founding members.

The objectives of forming the association is to raise public awareness about the sharing economy; develop a vibrant and viable industry for our members; and help our members address challenges and explore opportunities with internal and external parties.

Over the next two years, the association will lead the sharing economy in Singapore and embark on several activities, including:

- Monthly public talks to spread awareness about the sharing economy.

- Quarterly industry networking sessions for existing and potential companies and organisations involved or interested in the sharing economy.

- Regular consultation dialogues with relevant government agencies to address the challenges and opportunities of the sharing economy.

Who would you welcome to join your association? Can crowdfunding and crowdsourcing platforms join you?

Ordinary membership is open to businesses and organisations registered in Singapore. An Ordinary Member’s business or activity should (i) involve the use of technology or peer communities to increase sharing, and (ii) help to reduce negative social and environmental impacts, or increase the utilisation of resources or assets.

We welcome crowdfunding and crowdsourcing platforms too.

How would you describe the state of sharing amongst Singapore businesses? Any feel for the size of the market here? Do you foresee a potential for growth?

I would say that the sharing economy is still in its infancy stage in Singapore and we have not seriously looked at the full potential of sharing. I definitely see more opportunities for product service systems, where consumers gain access rather than ownership of products, and also for the redistribution of unwanted or used items and assets.

What are some of the challenges faced by companies providing rental or sharing services in Singapore? How do you hope to overcome these?

There are some regulatory challenges faced by companies involved in the peer-to-peer rental of accommodation and cars. We hope to engage in constructive dialogues with the relevant government agencies to discuss and resolve these challenges, and to identify potential opportunities.

Any successful examples of sharing/renting businesses in Singapore?

iCarsClub is a local startup providing peer-to-peer rental of cars. It has expanded to China and recently secured $10 million in funding to expand its services.

What do you foresee as the future projection for sharing/ renting businesses in Singapore? What about the greater SEA or Asian region?

I think there would be more entrepreneurs and startups adopting the sharing economy as a business model in Singapore and Asia. There would also be interest from traditional companies to partner with sharing companies, for example, hotels working with peer-to-peer office space rental companies to offer their business guests access to external office and teleconference facilities. Another area of growing interest is B2B sharing, where companies with underutilised assets such as vehicles and machinery, can share them with other companies.

What are your long-term goals for the association?

We aim to be the regional hub for companies and organisations involved in the sharing economy. Our goal is to have Singaporeans embracing the idea of sharing, the government supportive of the sharing economy, and a vibrant and viable industry for our members to grow.

Finally, any parting words for our readers?

Join us at our website and Facebook Page to find out all about our activities, and start sharing!

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