China's booming bicycle-rental industry is just one example of how data can make even the oldest of businesses lucrative, and failing to adapt can prove costly, according to the world's largest asset manager.
The value in the business isn't really in the bicycles themselves, the environmental benefit or their potential to ease pressure on public transport, but in the information they produce, Mark Wiseman, global head of active equities at BlackRock, said at a panel at the Toronto Global Forum on Monday.
"The owners of those bicycles know where they are being ridden, when and by whom," Mr. Wiseman said. "And I can tell you, as an investor, I'd be willing to pay a lot of money for that data."
Led by Beijing Mobike Technology Co. Ltd. and Ofo Inc., China's bike-sharing industry has attracted billions in investment from the likes of Warburg Pincus and DST Global, with some preparing to expand overseas. Users can park the bikes anywhere and unlock them with a click of their mobile phones.
"If you do not believe that technology is affecting your business, you are dead," Mr. Wiseman added. "It is affecting every single business, every single enterprise, everywhere in the world."