AutoNavi jumps into China’s ride-hailing fray with its first app to search and book from multiple providers
As China’s ride-hailing market heats up again, Alibaba Group’s AutoNavi maps service has found a way to join the fray by launching a ride-hailing booking service.
The 700 million users of AutoNavi’s map service can now, for the first time, choose from a list of ride-hailing providers, including China’s dominant player Didi Chuxing, as well as Ucar Inc and Shouqi Limousine & Chauffeur.
To attract users, AutoNavi is offering generous subsidies to encourage ride-bookings made through the app – a strategy adopted by many Chinese internet companies to quickly gain market share.
AutoNavi’s move to launch its ride-hailing aggregator comes as competition in the industry heats up again.
Less than two years after the merger between Uber China and Didi Chuxing effectively made the latter a near-monopoly in China’s multibillion-dollar ride-hailing market, new entrants such as Meituan Dianping and Ctrip have entered the fray in a bid to carve out market share for themselves.
Alibaba’s new aggregator service also puts it on par with Baidu Maps, which already allows users to access a variety of ride-hailing services within the app itself. AutoNavi also launched its own carpooling service in March this year.
By allowing users to book rides within AutoNavi, the company also gains valuable data on how customers are using its app, which can be used in developing more personalised and targeted services.
The platform model is also signature to Alibaba’s preferred style, where it tends to adopt an asset-light model.
AutoNavi’s ride-hailing aggregator could also help drive payment transactions on Alipay, the digital wallet and payments service operated by Alibaba’s financial arm Ant Financial.
The shift towards offering a variety of services within one app is also representative of the “superapp” model commonly used by Chinese tech giants.
Tencent’s WeChat started off as a messaging app and now offers everything from food delivery, games and payments on its platform, without users ever having to leave the application.
Alibaba is the parent company of the South China Morning Post.