Michael Qian, Founder and Co-CEO, SharingOS
China is home to a plethora of innovative, high quality manufacturers, designing and building hardware for the mobility sharing sector. And yet, many require intermediaries to assist them in successfully entering European markets. SharingOS is uniquely positioned to help.
Take, for example, Niu, the top manufacturer of e-scooters in China. This is a highly innovative company that is powering mobility sharing globally. I recently met with Niu’s CEO, Mr. Yan Li, to discuss his long term vision for the business.
The company is forward-thinking, ambitious and well positioned for growth, recently winning a Red Dot Award for the design of its M1 Electric Scooter. On 12th June, Niu launched its new product at the Louvre in Paris. So I wanted to take this opportunity to explain why its products are so important to the future of mobility sharing.
At present, Niu own around 35% of the budding European market for e-scooters. It’s still a small market, but that is set to change as European cities become increasingly hostile towards petrol and diesel vehicles and begin to search for viable transport alternatives. This is no longer the brainstorming of think-tanks, or politicians trying to come up with manifesto material. It’s really happening. Earlier this year, German cities were granted the power to ban older diesel vehicles in a bid to reduce air pollution. Councils in the UK are considering proposals to ban diesel cars from city centres, and Oxford has already taken this decisive step.
Niu has a product that policymakers, councils and the general public desperately need. It produces some of the highest quality e-scooters on the market, and is offering them at a reasonable price. But Niu faces challenges in distributing its product globally. The global marketplace is highly competitive and it will take time (and money) to combat outdated attitudes towards Chinese manufacturing.
Thank to our partnership with Indigo Weel, our JV in France with Indigo Group, SharingOS is in a unique position to help. There are three key obstacles for Niu growing it’s presence in Europe. We believe we can help overcome all of them.
Low brand awareness is an issue facing most Chinese manufacturers. Consumers in Europe just aren’t familiar with Chinese brand names, and European companies have build strong brand equity through decades of marketing and product distribution. This is something that Chinese companies need to confront head on, by allocating budget to marketing and thinking creatively about how they can break through the noise and reach consumers. We can see this is already happening, with Chinese companies emerging as major sponsors of the World Cup. Partnerships with existing European companies are also important. SharingOS can help by operating scooter-sharing with Niu, so people recognise their product on the street.
At this stage in the development of the mobility sharing movement, there is a fundamental lack of consumer demand when it comes to e-scooters. This will change, but it will take concerted action. Individuals, businesses and governments need more than just hand-holding. They need the benefits of e-scooters to be demonstrated to them. As the price of sharing is so low, people will be willing to give it a try. And since the experience is so great, they are likely to see value and become repeat users. The network effects of seeing e-scooters on the street will accelerate adoption, too.
Charging is also a real pain point. It’s going to take time and capital to build the infrastructure required to power the electric era of transportation. To facilitate the development of charging infrastructure across Europe, a comprehensive strategy needs to be agreed by national governments and the transportation industry. In the meantime, SharingOS is working with Indigo Group to address the charging problem with a battery swapping network.
First and foremost, we hope to help Niu grow its market share in Europe. But we want to go beyond that, helping to grow the market itself, increasing the global demand for e-scooters. It’s still so early in the development of this mobility category, and the scope for growth is incredible.
This is just the beginning. I believe SharingOS can help many manufacturers across the entire spectrum of mobility sharing. Right now, we’re in negotiations with several e-bike and e-car manufacturers, as well as rideshare operators, with a view to helping them enter the global marketplace.
It’s an exciting, busy time, and one with great promise for cities — and their people — everywhere.
The author is Founder and Co-CEO of SharingOS, a London and Shanghai based company that enables effortless, plug-and-play and sustainable solutions for partners to thrive in the mobility markets worldwide.