2020 has been a game changer pretty much since it began. No sooner did we ring in the New Year’s when rumors turned into reality and Covid-19 turned the world upside down with true threat of life and death in the balance. Up till January 2020, the “sharing economy” was one of the most profitable trends that emerged from the past 10 years with companies like Airbnb, Lyft, Uber, Hubble, Ola, and Lime (an electric scooter sharing service) emerging and disrupting the traditional hospitality and transportation sectors. An article published by NS Business in March 2019 shared a chart created by Price Waterhouse Coopers indicating that while in 2013 the sharing economy only represented 5% of the total market, by 2025 this would ascend to 50%.
Let’s not forget Airbnb, the world's top shared living experience, (which I have personally enjoyed using from Jaipur, India to Nassau, Bahamas) was until recently valued at 31 billion dollars and sailing towards a golden IPO. Who would have guessed that in May 2020 with everyone staying home and few venturing to "share accommodations" with anyone, Airbnb’s has had to lay off 25% of its workforce and according to the Business Standard, reduce its revenue projections to 50% of what it saw last year.
The underlying question, however, which is worth being debated is if the sharing economy truly helped the employee or ultimately only the executive team and shareholders. During the IPO of Uber, many skeletons came out of the closet including the high level of harassment and safety concerns explained by the $10 million Uber allocated solely to pay for discrimination suits filed by its former and current employees per a LA Times article published in April 2019.
The sharing economy since the pandemic is of a totally different nature: people coming together to truly help boost the morale and well-being of strangers around the world. Celebrities like Dolly Parton and Mindy Kaling are reading books and supporting great causes. Kaling partnered with @SAVEWITHSTORIES which helps fund food banks and community feeding programs on top of giving toys, books, and worksheets to children in need. Fundraisers are popping up every week, for instance, an inspiring line up of rock royalty including Nickelback, a breath-taking duet of Air Supply and Journey and dozens of others organised by Hollywood celebrity, Eric the Trainer, this past Mother’s Day in a “Need to Feed” drive and sing along to donate much needed food around the country sponsored by Quest Nutrition.
My favorite new show, John Krasinski’s SGN segment (Some Good News) which features positive news during these dark times, had an amazing recent episode where graduates across the US were able to celebrate their Graduation ceremony with him and a few graduates even got a fireside chat with icons like Steven Spielberg, Oprah, and Malala! Time will tell which "sharing economy" survives these unusual and complicated times, but as for me, empathy and hope wins every time.