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    Jun 12, 2014

    When sharing beats owning

    PUT that unused drill in the storeroom to good use and make some money by renting it out to someone who needs it.

    And you could do the same with your mint-condition wedding gown; your car on days when you don't need it; and even your bed.

    Welcome to the era of the "share economy", where people rent and share their underused personal assets - and earn extra cash in the process.

    Industry experts told My Paper that this movement is slowly gaining traction among Singaporeans, especially since Airbnb, an online accommodation rental service, took off successfully in 2008.

    "Today, many of us want access and not ownership - just look at the number of book and CD stores that have closed down," said Eugene Tay, president of the Singapore Sharing Economy Association (SSEA).

    By renting and sharing items, people not only get a supplementary source of income, but they can also help reduce wastage.

    "Singapore's economy is still operating mainly in a linear mode, where we take, make, and throw," said Mr Tay.

    "But we need to move away from over-consumption to re-using and returning these resources into the system."

    Mr Tay was speaking to My Paper at the official launch of the association yesterday, as it marked out its vision of becoming "the regional hub for companies and organisations involved in the sharing economy".

    He pointed out that Singapore has all the "right factors" for a share economy to take off: Its small size, which makes it easy for people to share things; a dense population; and an IT-savvy society that can use digital platforms to link givers and takers.

    But challenges abound, and the Singaporean mindset is one of them. "Cars, for example, have become a symbol of a person's social status today. And for some people, renting out their car may be equivalent to renting out prestige," said Mr Tay.

    Singaporeans also prefer to have rules regarding such renting practices spelt out in black and white, said Moh Hon Meng, chief executive of BlockPooling, a social network that facilitates sharing between neighbours.

    "It's like a no U-turn syndrome," he said. "If there's no U-turn sign on the roads, you think that making a U-turn there is illegal."

    Challenges remain on the regulatory front as well, particularly for businesses such as PandaBed, which connects travellers to non-hotel accommodation in Asia.

    On Sunday, it was reported that two home owners lost their flats after the Housing Board found they had let their units out to tourists.

    Regulations set out by the HDB and Urban Redevelopment Authority state that subletting homes for a period of less than six months is illegal.

    But PandaBed co-founder James Chua said that the newly formed association will engage the relevant government bodies on such issues.

    "Times have changed, the economy has changed, and it's time to rewrite some of the laws," he said.

    "Moving towards a share economy would need a huge paradigm shift, but it's a viable option for how the next generations will live."