Didi opens the door to third party ride-hailing players as fight to build China’s best super mobility app heats up


Didi, which counts hi-tech giants Apple, Tencent Holdings and Alibaba Group among its biggest shareholders, is battling new competition from broader platforms. — SCMP

Didi, which counts hi-tech giants Apple, Tencent Holdings and Alibaba Group among its biggest shareholders, is battling new competition from broader platforms. — SCMP

Didi Chuxing, China’s largest ride-hailing player, has opened its platform to rival companies allowing users to hail a car from third-party service providers as the battle to build the biggest and best super mobility app in the country hots up.

The Beijing-based company’s moves comes as rivals Meituan Dianping and AutoNavi, both of which already offer one-stop spontaneous ride-hailing services from multiple dispatchers, continue to expand their operations.

Chengdu, a popular tourist destination and capital of southwest Sichuan province, has been used to trial a pilot project since late May. Didi app users have been able to hail a car dispatched by Miaozou – a ride-hailing unit under travel platform Tongcheng.

The two companies have worked together for several years on airport trips and have now teamed up to bring “extra supply” to mobility services, offering quicker, more affordable and reliable rides, according to a Didi spokesman.

“As a mobility platform, Didi’s major goal remains to enhance its own services,” said Sun Naiyue, an analyst with consultancy Analysys. “The response time and actual wait time for users are two important gauges.”

Didi, which counts hi-tech giants Apple, Tencent Holdings and Alibaba Group among its biggest shareholders, is battling new competition from broader platforms.

Meituan Dianping, which offer hundreds of services on its app, launched its aggregated ride-hailing service in 10 more Chinese cities including Beijing earlier this month. Under the pilot programme, users can compare offers from several platforms such as Geely’s Caocao Car and Shouqi, and hail a ride via the Meituan app. Autonavi, Alibaba’s maps app with 100 million daily users, has its own aggregated platform that allows users to book rides.

Didi, long-vaunted as market leader after triumphing over arch-rival Kuaidi and beating Uber out of the country in 2016 to end a cutthroat subsidy war, is also battling to improve ride safety after driver scandals last year. Didi has a market share of 88 per cent in China’s ride-hailing market.

Meanwhile, more carmakers have been piling into the market. Last month, electric vehicle startup Xpeng Motors launched a mobility service in Guangzhou and in November BMW announced it had secured a ride hailing permit for Chengdu, making it the first global carmaker to gain access to the Chinese market. A car-hailing platform backed by state carmaker Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation began trial operations in Shanghai last year.

Alibaba is the parent company of the South China Morning Post. – South China Morning Post

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