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Internet dreams often fail to become offline realities

By Ren Xiaojin | China Daily | Updated: 2018-10-03 07:21

An inspector checks the air quality in a newly decorated room provided by Ziroom in Beijing. [Photo/China Daily]

The ceiling was leaking.

Three days after it had rained, the ceiling was still leaking. The laptop was soaked in water. The cat had to crawl under the desk and stand on top of the robotic vacuum cleaner so his paws did not get wet.

This happened in a service apartment a friend rented from a big-name internet rental company in Beijing. Despite billions of yuan of investment injected into the company's fund last year, no one has shown up at her door to compensate her or even make a decent apology, not even the paid-for butler the company promised to assign for each apartment.

The internet revolution has reshaped many things, making it easy to do lots via one's cell phone. However, after the ubiquitous media coverage about how everything pointed to brighter future with the help of the internet, loopholes started to show.

First, a well-known internet-based car hailing business was revealed to have serious safety issues. Then Ziroom, probably the country's biggest internet rental company, was reported to have rented out formaldehyde-ridden rooms.

The most criticized aspect of the internet-based car hailing service was the attempt to make it sociable-for the car owner to fall in love with the passenger, as indicated on its poster, even though the app was originally designed simply as a transportation tool.

Is the company doing too much to create an ideal online sociable scenario, or is it doing too little on the transportation side; for example, conducting background checks on drivers and providing an emergency helpline?

The same applies to the rental sector; health and safety issues and customer services should be given priority over everything else.

As another friend, who owns a company specializing in industrial intelligentization, used to tell me, so many internet-based projects claim to empower factories, but they mostly focus on the internet side, not so much on the industry. With talent working to make the internet more powerful than ever, machines in factories are still dumb.

Maybe as the loopholes begin to show, it's time for internet entrepreneurs to think carefully about what their company is really about, and not just draw up a fancy blueprint of an internet-connected world.

Remember how Xiong Lin, Ziroom's CEO, had a vision of creating a sociable apartment in the future, and promised to refund all the rent if the tenant ended up single? Let's see where that heads.

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