China’s largest ride-hailing platform, Didi Chuxing, plans to officially launch a food delivery service in Japan starting from April, the company said in a statement on Tuesday.
Didi told KrASIA that it will first roll out the service in Osaka, adding that it has already began recruiting food delivery couriers in the city.
The move comes as Didi ramps up expansion in the Japanese market. The Beijing-based company already has an established taxi-hailing business in the country, which it launched as a joint venture, Didi Mobility Japan, with Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Group in July 2018. Didi has since expanded to over 20 regions in Japan including Tokyo, Kyoto, and Hokkaido and partnered with over 500 taxi companies, the company said.
By launching its new food delivery service, Didi is set to challenge Uber Eats, the service provided by its main rival, Uber Technologies. Uber Eats was launched in Tokyo in September 2016 and now operates in 10 Japanese cities, covering over 10,000 restaurants.
In Japan, ride-sharing which relies on drivers with their own cars is banned. Therefore, ride-hailing companies have entered the market by teaming up with local taxi operators and launching taxi-hailing services. Uber has been in the market since 2014, but has had to content itself with food delivery and high-end limo services before launching a taxi-hailing pilot on the island of Awaji (near Osaka) in May 2018 by working with 20 local taxi firms. Other players in the market include JapanTaxi and online service provider DeNA.
This is not Didi’s first attempt to challenge Uber Eats in the overseas market. It launched food delivery services in Mexico in April 2019, which were available in three Mexican cities as of last November.