''Our parents used to leave their flat as a legacy, while we will leave our children the password on Instagram''
Representative of BlaBlaCar in Russia tells about why distrustful Russians considered the idea of car sharing better than anybody in the world
Time called the collaborative consumption economic model when consumers prefer not to purchase a property but exchange, rent, give to use on a barter basis one of the ten ideas to change the world. The trend for collaborative consumption is especially successfully applied in transport – car and ride sharing. Sergey Avakyan-Rzhevsky, representative of BlaBlaCar – the world ride-sharing leader – told Realnoe Vremya how Russians who just got access to private property were ready to refuse it in favour of economy and emotions.
You dedicated your speech at Our Tatarstan forum (which was in Kazan on 24-25 April) to collaborative consumption economy – it's a global trend that has being discussed since 2010. Do you think it hasn't lost its topicality?
No, moreover, we're at the very beginning of its development.
Humankind. This trend, in general, changes the paradigm of how people consume products and services. How was it in the past? We all used to accumulate things. A drill is a prime example. Every man who respected himself considered he needed to have a drill! But few people realised a drill worked for just 13 minutes during its life! It turns out there is no sense in buying it because neighbour Uncle Ivan is likely to have a drill, and it can be borrowed for a symbolical price, which is equal to the price of a bottle of beer or bag of chips.
With the development of the Internet and mobile technologies, people had an opportunity to unite without living in one block of flats or in one street but within the globe
People, first of all, the youth, don't want to own but consume. Nobody wants a car to repair it. People need a car to drive, beep, move from point A to point B. Sharing companies like ours perform this task.
People want to travel a lot. And a local's flat can be used if you turn to services like Airbnb and Couchsurfing. You don't need to work for half of life to buy a yacht. You can rent it together with your friends. I'm sure the shared consumption economy makes people's life more pleasant, things and impressions become more available.
Do you want to say that it is in human being's nature to unite and share resources?
The desire to unite and consume products together has always been. A communal flat is a prime example from the recent past. People lived together, could purchase something for the fridge, lent money to each other, etc. But they could unite so only within their habitat – flat, entrance, block. With the development of the Internet and mobile technologies, people had an opportunity to unite without living in one block of flats or in one street but within the globe. It's very logical that when you can't afford something, you unite with another person to use it together. The example with the drill is the same: a good drill costs from 3,000 rubles now. It needs to be stored somewhere, technical maintenance is needed ideally. But a person doesn't need a drill, he needs a hole in the wall.
Don't ride with Hitler
Russia lived without any private property for 70 years. It turns out we had enough during capitalism to thankfully consider the idea of sharing now?
The motive to purchase was really very strong. But the modern youth are already different. A prime example: the people who were born in the USSR always had a tea set for 12 people at home. Why? To sit down and drink tea one day when all relatives come. I personally remember one or two times when the full set really came in handy. Why does it occupy a shelf in the living room during the rest of time? There is a joke that our parents used to leave their flat as a legacy, while we will leave the login from the password to our children on Instagram (photos, emotions, impressions). And there is a lot of truth in this joke.
Russia is supposed to be a country of distrustful people. Can we say sharing breaks this stereotype?
BlaBlaCar thought for a long time whether there was a sense in entering the market in Russia. Western Europe perfectly understands the Russians are different. How? They don't smile, they are distrustful, maybe suspicious and probably even arrogant – you purchased your own car, so now you are a kind and god. And what happened in the end? Today Russia is the most fast-growing market for BlaBlaCar in the world. So we can say in our own example that the talks that the Russians are unfriendly and distrustful is a stereotype that probably we themselves like to support.
Are there countries where the idea of collaborative consumption using the example of your service doesn't put down roots?
Yes. Now we operate in 22 countries. It's mainly European countries, plus, Mexico, Turkey, India, Brazil. We expected a big growth in India because the population is big there. But the mentality is different, the safety level is different, the level of the country's development and education showed it wasn't that simple to develop ride sharing in this country. We faced problems in England – the service develops, works, but not as active as we expected. We don't enter the US market, though this country can be considered the cradle of ride sharing. The country stimulated people to share rides as early as WWII to economise benzene. Walls of announcements where drivers wrote at what time they departed and how many people they could take appeared in factories, plants. A famous poster of that time said: ''When you ride alone, you ride with Hitler''. But now the benzene price in the States is very low, domestic flights are cheap, there is a so-called problem of the ''last mile'' – cities in America are very big, public transport doesn't operate well. This is why a ticket to urban transport can cost as much as a whole ride-sharing trip. And it can also take much time.
Nevertheless, both the USA and Canada have their ride sharing services. But they aren't as popular as analogous in Europe. For BlaBlaCar aren't a priority now.
It turns out the economic motive dominates. And collaborative consumption is an opportunity to scotch the ecological harm. Do many users have such a motive?
When we ask users in Europe, they often call the care about the environment as one of the motives to use BlaBlaCar. In Russia, almost never. It seems to me this motive is very logical, and it must also appear in our country sooner or later. But now, when we survey our users, they say they started to ride more thanks to BlaBlaCar – to travel, visit their mum, other relatives. We live in a country with huge distances. And reaching a neighbouring settlement by public transport can cost a significant share of a person's wage. BlaBlaCar is a sheet anchor for such people.