In a previous article, I explored how economic isolation caused Cuba to develop a unique sharing culture. Russia’s sharing economy has just begun to grow due to similar economic circumstances and a devalued ruble. Unlike Cuba, Russia has not developed a unique, organic, sharing culture in response to its economic hardship. In fact, Russians have been averse to adopt sharing services after years of forced ‘sharing’ under the Soviet Union.
Ownership has long been a symbol of status in Russia. In the Soviet Union, the ability to own a car or have a choice of where to live signaled connections and political power rather than monetary wealth due to the centralized living system and a shortage of cars and other capital. Consequently, Russians place great value on ownership and from around the year 2000 until the recent financial crisis they haven’t had to worry much about money. However, the ruble’s recent decline, falling price of oil, and Western sanctions have forced people to look for extra work and find ways to save money.
What Sharing Services do Russians use?
Russia has few native sharing economy platforms. The Russian version of TaskRabbit called YouDo, which was founded in 2012 and has rapidly grown in the past two years. The majority of tasks relate to cleaning or courier services, and the majority of activity takes place in Moscow or Saint Petersburg – Russia’s most Westernized cities. The number of Russians finding work on YouDo grew more than 6 times between 2015-2016.
Similarly, the French platform BlaBlaCar has experienced some of its fastest growth ever in Russia. BlaBlaCar allows users to match with one another for long car rides based on qualities like shared music tastes. BlaBlaCar attributes its success in Russia to increased domestic tourism, which is particularly expensive in Russia due to the long distances between major cities and popular tourist sites.
While services like YouDo and BlaBlaCar help Russians earn extra income and save money, the majority of sharing activity takes place in Saint Petersburg and Moscow. Hopefully, Russian entrepreneurs will find a way to market the benefits of sharing services to other parts of Russia who have less contact with the West and aren’t as familiar with the sharing economy. Perhaps new models for sharing services will need to be developed for Russia due to its size, economic situation, and historic relationship with ‘sharing’.