An umbrella share scheme in China has backfired after almost all of its stock was stolen in the first few weeks.

The business start-up aims to provide easy-access umbrellas for city folk to pick up from railings near bus stations and subways as they go about their day.

However, the company was caught high and dry when almost all of the 300,000 umbrellas it provided were stolen shortly after the scheme was launched.

Sharing E Umbrella’s chief executive Zhao Shuping says his idea was inspired by other share schemes like bicycle hire and the idea that now anything can be shared.

But he may have overestimated people’s honesty – or even their ability to simply remember to give them back.

The GPS-enabled umbrellas are unlocked using a code sent to your mobile phone which allows you to use it for about 50 yuan (6p) per half an hour for as long as you want.

There is apparently no penalty for not putting them back, according to local media, which may have contributed to the volume of unreturned brollies.

Mr Zhao says the scheme makes money through advertising on the umbrella, saying "the umbrella is not only a tool for shelter, it is an advertising media."

The umbrellas were rolled out in Shanghai, Nanjing, Guangzhou and Nanchang and although there aren’t many left for a rainy day, Mr Zhao says he plans to put them into even cities more across China.

Mr Zhao told the state media website The Paper that people may have broken their umbrellas, or may have hired more than one and left them at home.

(c) Sky News 2017: Got you covered? 300,000 umbrellas stolen in share scheme start-up