It was only recently when Chinese startup Xiangshui Space introduced bed-sharing as the newest business in the country’s booming sharing economy.
In May, the Beijing-based company launched 15 capsule hotels — which had two to eight beds each — in offices and workspaces within the city and tested more in Chengdu and Shanghai.
However, the sleeping pods halted operations last week as the public expressed concerns over hygiene and safety issues. Xiangshui Space founder Ren Jiangong admitted that there are improvements to be made, but maintained that the hotels, designed primarily for white-collar workers who want to take naps, are only open between the office hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.
In addition, Ren, acknowledging the complexities of business regulation, posted on WeChat (via South China Morning Post):
“From the perspective of supervision, if Xiangshui Space is defined as a hotel, we should obtain permits from fire, sanitation and other industrial departments before we can put it into operation, but it remains to be discussed [whether we should be required to obtain these permits] considering the way we position ourselves now.”
Before suspending its operations, Xiangshui charged 10 yuan ($1.47) per 30 minutes of lodging in each sleeping pod between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. A charge of 0.33 yuan ($ 0.05) was applied for every subsequent minute, and users only needed to register and pay through WeChat to use the service.
On top of disposable sheets, blankets, pillowcases and earplugs, each pod was equipped with a charging outlet, an electric fan, a mirror and a reading lamp, AllTechAsia noted.
All pods were regularly inspected and externally monitored through surveillance cameras.
The hotels were reportedly shut down by authorities, but several Xiangshui staff told SCMP that they actually closed voluntarily and would resume operations following improvements and acquisition of necessary permits.
If all goes well for Xiangshui, it could soon rejoin China’s lucrative sharing industry, which was worth $508 billion last year.