At 29, Spandan Sharma doesn’t own a flat, a car, or even a chair – one of a growing number of Indian millennials bucking traditional norms and instead opting to rent everything from furniture to iPhones. “Millennials in my age bracket want freedom and earlier what was seen as stability is now seen as a sign of being tied down,” Sharma said.
“My parents don’t understand the concept of renting furniture at all. They have never been completely on-board with the idea,” he said. “They said it would be much better to buy rather than rent furniture in the long term.” For Rs 4,247 a month, the Mumbai-based executive furnished his entire home, sourcing furniture for his bedroom, living room and dining area as well as a refrigerator and microwave.
Sharma isn’t alone. Tens of thousands of young Indians are switching from buying to renting so they can live life with few strings attached. Even businesses are renting their office furnishings, said budding entrepreneur Vandita Morarka. When Morarka set up her feminist non-profit One Future Collective in 2017, she rented nearly everything she needed and funnelled the savings from not having a one-off outlay into paying salaries to her staff of 25.
“From study tables and chairs to even a laptop, I have rented them all as the prices are reasonable,” the 25-year-old said. “This system allows me to take more risks. And in case things go south, we can wrap up without losing a large tranche of investments and begin elsewhere.”
In the US, websites such as Rent the Runway and Nuuly offer fashion-conscious customers the option to try rather than buy clothing, while in China, consumers can rent BMWs via a tap on their smartphone. In India, the boom has fuelled the rise of new furniture and appliance-renting businesses such as Furlenco, RentoMojo and GrabOnRent – and even jewellery rental apps – in recent years.
For many millennials, choosing the rental option is as much about taking a road less travelled as it is about saving money.