China’s Didi Kuaidi teams up with Lyft, Ola and GrabTaxi to keep rival Uber at bay with ridesharing global alliance

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 December, 2015, 7:44pm
UPDATED : Friday, 04 December, 2015, 7:58pm

Didi Kuaidi, operator of China’s top ride-hailing mobile application, is looking to beat rival Uber around the world with a little help from its friends.

The company on Friday announced a partnership with US-based Lyft, India’s Ola and GrabTaxi of Singapore to build an extensive rideshare alliance that covers nearly half of the world’s population.

“This is a win for the diversity and vitality of the global rideshare industry,” Didi Kuaidi chief executive Cheng Wei said.

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For Didi Kuaidi, that ambitious rideshare initiative represents a win for its investment strategy. The Beijing-based company has a stake in each of its three fellow start-up partners.

Didi Kuaidi first made a big splash in March by investing US$100 million in on-demand transport provider Lyft, which operates in more than 190 cities in the US.

That was followed in August with an undisclosed sum invested in GrabTaxi, the leading ride-hailing service used across Southeast Asia.

In September, Didi Kuaidi also made an undisclosed amount of investment in Ola, which provides service in 102 cities across India.

Collectively, Didi Kuaidi, Lyft, GrabTaxi and Ola have raised more than US$7 billion from investors.

Forrester Research senior analyst Wang Xiaofeng said the alliance might put a damper on the aggressive expansion plans of larger rival Uber.

“Take travellers across Asia as an example: Chinese consumers can use their Didi account to get a cab with GrabTaxi when they travel to Southeast Asia, or with Ola in India,” Wang said.

“If this alliance didn’t happen, those people would likely use Uber because that is the ride-hailing platform they are more aware of.”

READ MORE: Uber launches service aimed at Hong Kong’s budget travellers

According to Didi Kuaidi, the partners will jointly roll out their rideshare service in the first quarter next year.

“Under this umbrella, we see many opportunities to share ideas and best practices – from product innovations to driver support, technology developments and approaches for managing local operations in a rapidly-scaling organisation,” said Anthony Tan, chief executive of GrabTaxi.

Each of the four partners have committed to handle mapping, routing and payments

through a secure application programming interface, with the goal of providing the best global experience for millions of travellers between mainland China, the US, Southeast Asia and India every year.

“The partnership with Lyft, GrabTaxi and Ola allows Chinese users unprecedented ease of

international travel, and helps each of us improve our own services, leveraging our collective technology and expertise,” Cheng said.

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Didi Kuaidi, which grew from the merger in February of Chinese taxi-hailing app operators Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache, currently offers comprehensive transportation services in more than 360 mainland Chinese cities.

It offers private car, carpooling, bus, chauffeur and taxi-hailing services to more than 200 million users in the country.

San Francisco-based Uber, however, remains the 800-pound gorilla in the rapidly growing mobile app-initiated ride-hailing service market.

Sam Gellman, the head of Asia expansion at Uber, predicted the company’s business in the region will soon surpass that in the United States.

“Asia has been a great continent for us,” Gellman said at a panel of the South China Morning Post’s Game Changers event in June.

Uber is also looking to raise more financing to thwart the competition. In a regulatory filing this week, Uber said it plans to raise US$2.1 billion in a new financing round that would put its valuation upwards of US$68 billion.