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Meet the unknowns behind the bike-sharing business

Updated: Apr 27,2017 10:40 AM

Most people, especially those with college degrees, go into traditional fields such as medicine, engineering or banking. But here’s a group of well-educated young people that has chosen a different career path. Their day doesn’t start with clocking-in to work at some office; rather they begin their shift by tapping into an app on roads as streets are their workplace. And no, they are not streetwalkers. They work for a bike-sharing start-up.

Wang Shuo, 28, head of the operation team of Mobike in Dongcheng and Xicheng districts in Beijing, told that his “buddies” are grouped to take up different tasks on the streets, including detecting damaged or illegally parked bikes, relocating bikes to where they are needed, transporting damaged ones to company’s repair center, as well as properly parking bikes around subway station exits.

His team members, with average age 24, are called “operation buddies” by the company.

Wang was one of them, and even though he is now head liaison officer he still has a habit of taking “day-care” of the shared bikes whenever there’s a need.

Sharp eyes

“Hang on, I should call another buddy to take away this bike for repair,” said Wang stopping by a bike parked by a roadside near Lingjinghutong Subway Station. We were on our way to meet one of his team members responsible for bikes rearrangement at the subway exit.

“The solar panel installed in the front basket is missing,” he said, leaving me surprised to see him detect a fault at one glance.

“We are very familiar with the bikes,” he added when he saw the look of surprise on my face. This eye for detail has translated into rich experiences.

The solar panel is part of the power supply system of the bike, he explained.

Meticulous manner

The buddy he introduced is Tong Yuxin, a 22-year-old new employee, a bike lover and also a fresh graduate from Northeast China’s Jilin province.

Although he is new in this company, his connection with the shared bikes is long. He became a “hunter” first before joining the company. In the bike sharing circle, volunteers who team up in their spare time in search of destroyed or illegally parked bikes as well as those locked for private use call themselves “bike hunters”.

He told he is so fond of cycling and the concept of sharing economy that he made up his mind to join the company after graduation.

His performance impressed the executives. The bikes after his rearrangement always stand in a straight row like soldiers in review. “He is very meticulous,” Wang said with pride.

Although Tong isn’t tall or strongly built, he is more courageous than he looks.

Once he saw a man who was much stronger than him trying to steal a bike seat, he went to stop him without a second thought. Sensing he may not be able to take on the thief, he managed to ask a friend to contact police without the thief noticing him. The seat was safe in the end as police arrived in time.

Mind helps hands

Wang will never forget Oct 17, 2016. It was the second day of his job and he got totally wet in a heavy rain.

“I have no regret for choosing this job,” he replied when asked about that day. “For one thing, I think this is novel business and it makes me look cool. For another, it is more than meaningful. I have been encouraged by the spirit of my colleagues and buddies.”

Compared with his other experiences, working in rain or snow is not even noteworthy. Wang has dived into a river to retrieve a bike thrown purposely by someone. He has spent nearly a week searching for a bike locked in a home for personal use. He has climbed 17 floors to locate a bike.

His hands got blisters in the first months as he had to lift 30 to 40 bikes, each weighing 17 kg, out of hutongs for repair or to the public places where they can serve more users every day.

His past experience as a salesman of electrical products helped him come up with a solution to ease the physical challenges.

He designed and made a mini platform trailer with a blank space in the center where the back wheel of the bike can fit in. This invention not only helped him save the damaged shared bikes more easily but also won him a prize for innovation by the company.

“Our job not merely requires physical strength, but also intelligent dedication,” Wang said.” We cooperate very well with other teams. We keep a record of the number of bikes we relocated or rearranged in one place and report that to the big data team to help them make the final decision on best options of bike releases in one place. And we also give users’ feedback or frequent malfunctions to bike design team.”