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Enabling ride-sharing worldwide

By Fan Feifei | China Daily | Updated: 2019-01-07 09:33

The logo of Chinese ride-sharing firm Didi Chuxing is seen on the T-shirts of employees as they look at the company's app, outside the new drivers center in Toluca, Mexico, on April 23, 2018. [Photo/Agencies]

Didi Chuxing redefines taxi services via M&A and product innovations

China's ride-sharing giant Didi Chuxing Technology Company is rolling out its services in Latin America, Australia and Japan, in a bid to become the world's leading mobile transportation player amid fierce competition from Uber.

It launched transport services in Mexico's capital on Nov 21, to further expand business in the country. Home to some 22 million people with internet access and a lack of reliable transportation, Mexico City and the metropolitan area present an attractive market, said Pablo Mondragon, the company's head of operations for the nation's capital and nearby Toluca.

"Latin America is one of the fastest-growing regions in internet use, especially Mexico. We have about 90 million internet users (nationwide), which makes entry (into the market) easy for these types of apps," Mondragon said.

Didi first launched operations in Toluca, a city located 60 kilometers west of Mexico City, in April and has expanded to Guadalajara and Monterrey.

Didi's expansion plans cover the northern cities of Chihuahua, Mexicali as well as Tijuana, Merida to the southeast, and Puebla, near Mexico City.

It introduced key product innovations in Latin America, including a real-time SOS system, dynamic safety monitoring, multi-person itinerary sharing, round-the-clock user support, and a multivariable driver rating system, the company said.

"Going global is a top strategic priority for Didi," said Cheng Wei, founder and CEO of the company. "With enhanced investments in AI capabilities and smart transportation solutions, we will continue to advance the transformation of global transportation and automotive industries through diversified international operations and partnerships."

In January of 2018, it bought a controlling stake in 99, a leading ride-booking app in Brazil. The acquisition marks Didi's first entry into Latin America.

"China and Brazil are the world's foremost emerging markets with enormous opportunities for our ride-booking industry. We look forward to working with more global partners in creating better mobility services for our cities as we reshape the future global transportation system," Cheng said.

Didi has also entered the Australian market. It began serving customers in Melbourne, the second-largest city in Australia, on June 25, following a month-long trial period in Geelong, a neighboring city that is 75 kilometers away. The business is run by a Didi subsidiary in Australia.

(From left to right): Stephen Zhu, vice-president of Didi Chuxing, Ken Miyauchi, CEO of SoftBank Corp, Jean Liu, president of Didi Chuxing, and Keigo Sugano, executive director of SoftBank Corp, shake hands after a news conference about their Japanese taxi-sharing joint venture in Tokyo on July 19, 2018. [Photo/Agencies]

Didi said it will shape product offerings and user experience in Australia based on the feedback from drivers and passengers in Melbourne and Geelong, with a plan to introduce safer, more efficient and environmentally friendly functions to cater to Australian needs through daily operation in the market.

Moreover, Japan is one of the ride-hailing giant's "core overseas markets", in addition to Australia and Mexico. In July, Didi announced the official launch of its Japanese joint venture with Soft-Bank, to offer on-demand taxi-sharing services and smart transportation solutions for citizens and tourists in Japan.

Stephen Zhu, vice-president of Didi Chuxing and CEO of Didi Japan, said the new platform aims to help taxi companies to improve their efficiency and utilization, enhance user satisfaction and build more broad-based demand for taxi services.

It has officially debuted its taxi-sharing services in Japan's second-largest city Osaka, and the Senshu area, including Kansai International Airport in September.

Didi said it aims to support the Japanese taxi industry to capture these new opportunities in anticipation of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Furthermore, Didi Japan's taxi-sharing service will accommodate travelers from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, who can hail taxis in Osaka, access Chinese-Japanese text translation, and get "bilingual customer support" via their apps.

After Osaka, Didi Japan plans to enter Kyoto, Fukuoka, Tokyo, and other cities in the near future, according to the company.

"In 2018, Didi continued to cultivate markets in Latin America, Australia and Japan. We are confident a combination of world-class transportation artificial intelligence technology and deep local expertise will bring a better experience to overseas markets," the company said in a statement.

This international expansion has also brought a new level of confusion since Didi has cultivated relationships with other ride-hailing companies across the world while also expanding its own presence internationally.

In 2015, the Beijing-based company invested $100 million in US ride-hailing app Lyft. It also participated in a $350 million funding round for Southeast Asia's largest player GrabTaxi and invested $30 million in India's Ola.

Didi acquired rival Uber's business in China in 2016. It has partnered with Europe's Taxify and Careem, a ride-hailing platform that operates in the Middle East, North Africa, Turkey and Pakistan.

Xinhua contributed to the story.

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