The Great Mesh: How Sharing Economy Changed The Modern Industry

Wikipedia defines sharing economy as “a socio-economic system built around the sharing of human and physical assets.” Whoever coined the term remains anonymous, but there are a handful of other names associated with it. Mesh, peer-to-peer economy, collaborative consumption; these are just a few. The idea behind it sparked in the mid-2000s, when new business models powered by social media technologies became many companies’ strategy to solve gradual depletion of our natural resources. People started connecting, collaborating and practically sharing everything associated with their services using their online omnipresence. The result, a great mashup of information, ideas and products spewing all over the corners of the internet, out into our streets and even landing inside our homes.

The term “sharing economy” is used as a catch-all phrase for any transaction with another individual concerning a partaking of one’s present physical belongings. It can be either shared creation, distribution or consumption of goods and/or services between different people. Simply put, the idea behind this says “what is mine is yours” and vice versa. And who thought sharing could be this rewarding?

The Point Of Modern Day Sharing

Sharing is a big, generous word. In the 1900s, when you were told to share, your mind drifts to what’s inside your lunchbox and to whom you will give the other half of your sandwich to. Or perhaps a piece of chocolate to your younger sibling. A side of the bed for your partner. A corner of your home for a family member. Now moving on to the second decade of the 2000s, sharing is given another meaning. You let strangers into your home and let them sleep in your guest room, or somewhere identically comfortable. You allow your office to be someone else’s working place. You give a stranger the key to your car and let them steer around with your driver’s plate. Your parking space is now used under someone else’s name.

You give them a more practical option compared to lodging inside a luxury hotel or renting a car.But still, you don’t give it for free.

This time, sharing is done for a fee.

Imagine this: across 192 countries all over the world, about 40,000 people rents a place to stay using a service that provides more than 200,000 rooms in 30,000 cities. Take note, this is not a hotel chain. This is an online platform called Airbnb, the brainchild of a San Francisco-based independent company. It’s a website where account users can rent spaces, cars, RVs and other useful assets directly from another user. And if you’re thinking consumers are coordinating with businesses, you’re wrong. This is a consumer to consumer transaction.

Now who would have thought normal individuals can be entrepreneurs of some sort?

I didn’t. Not until I get to see the glimpse of the big picture.

Hardin’s Tragedy Of Commons

Back in 1986, Garett Hardin explored the theory of the Tragedy Of Commons, an emergent behavior which is the result of man acting only for his own benefit. An article was published under the same name tackles how space, sky and sea, along with other vital human resources, can be eliminated due to independent, selfish usage. People who have grown-up self-serving themselves must learn another direction. Hardin’s study triggered a warning sign that is now embedded in the core of combating inflation, climate change and other cultural and economic maladies. His theory pointed at the right direction. The answer lies in smart, resourceful consumerism.

And the “smart, resourceful consumerism”, it turns out, is actually sharing.Who could have known that the answer to retaining much of the world’s existing resources is to share what you already have? There will be less need for new hotel buildings, parking lots, car manufacturing and other significant products we consume. In return, we save a huge percentage of what is left of Mother Nature. The concept sounds simple. There are things we have which someone may need, and there are things someone has that we might need, one time or another. It’s all about give and take. A mutual yield. A reaching of the hands and a bit of charity.

Growing up, one thing I learned about humans is that we have the tendency to choose which is of the best advantage for us. We are self-serving individuals. We prefer choices which will be of our gain. The rest will be sacrifice. Our rights have taken the reign of our stubborn, independent heart. Our rights held up high but all alone. Like an island.

But Now, Consumers Have a Choice

Sharing economy has broken the boundaries of man’s selfish, independent nature. This new trend allowed one to become vulnerable, to become in need of another’s aid, to become grateful. It has paved the wall to a greater connection with the rest of the world, whom we consider as strangers, to find friends in unfamiliar faces, voices and values. The mesh market has given us unseen opportunities to reach out and be rewarded for our help in return. The advantage? Involvement. Dynamic involvement. The kind of action that ripples through cultures and social statuses and allows human association to break through. This form of marketing has a real tinge to it. A touch of someone’s heart.

Collaborative consumption takes things further than what internet first presented itself to be: a network of social channels. Social media allowed us to share our lives with a digital audience, an unseen crowd of people hiding their flesh and bones in an ever-present mask we call the online presence. Social media is where we share our innermost thoughts, random babbles, what we’re doing where, in a swift moment. But becoming a “sharer” is more than posting photos on Facebook and pinning on Pinterest. It’s more than logging into your Foursquare account and letting others know where you are. Shared economy allows you to become human. To have a true, physical encounter with someone from the other side of the world (or the state) and be of service to them. You are not just an online presence. You get to be real.

Companies need to learn how to be real. Modern consumers are now becoming smarter and more discerning. Gone are the days when we are blinded by a colorful, greedy-looking marketing campaign. We want honesty. We want something that’s genuine. Something that can be felt, something noteworthy, something that offers a new humanly experience.

A recent global survey from Nielsen shows tremendous support for the sharing economy: a whopping 68% of respondents said that they are willing to share their assets for financial returns. 66% of them also disclosed that they are likely to use products and services from other individuals in a sharing community.

For someone who grew up exposed to an economy boosting individualistic, unconnected products, this is such a refreshing change.We have long been bombarded of campaigns focusing on you and you alone. You know, how you could be more beautiful, what delicious food you can eat, what sort of car will make you look cooler, and all the other similar advertisements. But when an ad says you can do something for an individual and that you will be rewarded in the end, well, that’s something new. Something different. Something that reminds you that you’re human, and that no man is an island.

The Future Of Sharing Economy, And How You Could Be In It

Airbnb founders started the company on the verge of being broke six years ago. Now, it’s the leading online platform that connects homeowners in less than two hundred countries. The reason for their success? Zero marginal cost. Well, almost-zero. Talk about a lot of savings.

In mid-2012 to mid-2013, New York’s lavish hotel industry lost 1 million room nights when 416,000 Airbnb users chose to stay in local apartments and houses as guests. What was once softly thumping against the doors of hotel industry mavericks becomes a giant, injuring splash on their faces. After all, who would choose something that will cost him a $100 more?

The zero-marginal cost strategy has just paved the road for a more practical, economical substitute. With this, people are now shifting gears from becoming independent, self-serving, selfish creatures. Many consumers are now opening their gates to this so-called collaborative consumption. When people learned to share, they learn to gain unexpectedly too,

Sharing economy has given birth to a few other business models which allowed individuals to share services and potentially, revenues. There goes the crowdfunding platforms, virtual gift registries, online marketplaces and all the other websites that spark dynamic interaction from its online audience. All leads to a greater cause. A wider movement. A bigger string of ideas. A larger crowd of voices to be heard. Of course, let’s not forget the main goal: project fruition, and probably, a lot of cash. The concept is not just good for saving the remnants of our environment. It’s good for creating human connections, opportunities and gaining rewards, all of these done at the same time.

Yes. No man is an island.

What can you share today?