Uber vs. Didi: The Chase to Dominate China’s Ridesharing Market

It is not a secret that the rivalry between Didi Chuxing and Uber, the two biggest mobile transportation and ridesharing service companies in China have been intensifying since 2015.

As both companies push for dominance in the world’s second largest economy, here’s a look at how the two companies have fared thus far.

About Didi Chuxing
Didi Chuxing (formerly Didi Kuaidi) is a major ride-hailing service company in China that was formed in February 2015 as a result of a merger between the country’s two largest taxi-hailing service companies who were rivals then, Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache.

Didi is presently the largest mobile transportation and ridesharing service company in the world in terms of ridership. The company claims that its platform handles more than 11 million rides a day. In 2015 alone, Didi has successfully served a total of 1.43 billion trips on its platform. It is currently available in more than 400 cities across China with an estimated 300 million users. Didi is also the second largest online transaction platform in China after Alibaba’s ecommerce website, Taobao.

What sets Didi apart from other mobile transportation and ride-hailing service companies is the multitude of services that are integrated onto its platform. Didi first began as a revolutionary taxi-hailing service in China but soon branched into providing private car booking (Didi Express), social car sharing (Didi Hitch), chauffeur (Didi Premium, Didi ACE), designated driving, corporate (Didi Enterprise Solutions) and bus booking services (Didi Bus).

Didi Hitch:
A social car sharing service that matches drivers and users who share similar commute routes. This service was launched in June 2015.

Didi Premium and Didi ACE:
Professional chauffeured car services for users. Available in more than 150 cities across China with 4 million registered drivers and 40 million users.

Didi Designated Driving:
Users could request for qualified drivers to drive the user’s vehicle to a designated location.

Didi Bus:
Users can search for bus routes and book bus services. All buses are fully equipped with free Wi-Fi for its commuters.

Didi currently operates only in China, with a presence in more than 400 cities within the country. However, it has recently partnered with Uber’s three major competitors in the market – Lyft, Ola and Grab, to allow its users who travel overseas to cross-book with these ride-hailing platforms.

Market Share
The company claims that it dominates 99 percent of the market for mobile taxi-hailing services and has an 87 percent market share for mobile private-car hailing services in China.

It currently has 14 million registered drivers and a user base of 300 million.

In 2016, Didi has managed to attract an investment from Apple worth US$1 billion, making it the largest single investment ever received by the company. Didi is also backed by China’s two largest internet behemoths, Alibaba and Tencent.

Other investors include China Life Insurance, China Investment Corp and Capital International Private Investment Funds. Didi is currently valued at about US$26 billion.

Didi is also achieving profitability where it claims to break even in about half the cities in which it is currently operating. The company is aiming to handle 30 million passengers a day by 2018, with waiting time for a car reduced to just three minutes.

About Uber
Uber is an American multinational mobile transportation and ridesharing service company based in San Francisco, California. Uber was founded by Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick in 2009 as UberTaxi. It started its international expansion in 2012 and is currently available in 459 cities in more than 75 countries worldwide.

In February 2014, Uber started its operations in China with its initial launch in Shanghai. Since then, it has expanded its operations to more than 50 cities across China and is aiming to reach at least 100 Chinese cities by the end of 2016.

Uber is currently handling more than 1 million rides a day in China. By the end of 2016, the country is likely to overtake the United States to become Uber’s largest market.

Users can request for a ride through Uber’s mobile app where they will be paired with the nearest available driver based on the services that they have selected. In China, Uber’s services are tailored specifically for the local market (UberX, UberXL, UberEnglish and UberBlack), with some of these services available only in China (People’s Uber).

In most markets, UberX is Uber’s economical peer-to-peer private car service. However, in China, UberX is a service for cars driven by professional chauffeurs.

People’s Uber:
This is an affordable peer-to-peer ridesharing service that is only available in China. This service replaces the UberX economical private car service that is found in other international markets.

This service allows a user to book a private car service with an English-speaking driver.

Uber is currently operating in more than 50 cities across China. By July 2016, Kunming will be the 60th city in China to have an Uber service in operation.

Market Share
Uber estimates that it has a 30 percent market share for mobile private-car hailing services in China.

Uber currently has attracted an investment of US$ 600 million from China’s largest search engine company, Baidu. Other investors include China Life Insurance, Hillhouse Capital Group and Tiger Global.

Uber is currently valued at US$62.5 billion with its China unit valued at US$8 billion.

Final Thoughts
While it may seem that Uber’s battle for dominance in the ridesharing market in China is fading day by day, all hope is not lost. Optimism among investors still remains high as seen from the number of investments that both Uber and Didi have been able to attract. Uber still remains Didi’s strongest competitor. For Uber, the importance of the Chinese market is apparent by the the fact that five out of its top ten cities, in terms of ridership, are located in China.

Moving forward, the two companies would not only need to fend off the competition, but also overcome the legal and regulatory obstacles within the country which, at times, can prove especially daunting for foreigners. It also remains to be seen whether Didi can expand beyond the Asian market and become a global competitor to Uber.