The day has finally come. After three years of operations under the mask of Kuaidi Taxi in Hong Kong, Didi Chuxing has finally decided to up its game in the city, launching the Didi branded service in replace of Kuaidi, according to 36Kr, a Chinese biztech news service.
Didi users in mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong will be able to tap into their Didi app for taxi-hailing in the special administrative region of China.
“Hong Kong, as a world-class financial centre and a transportation hub in the Asia-Pacific region, has a growing demand for diversified transportation,” said LIN Li, head of Didi’s North Asia Operations,“Our company is going to partner with the Hong Kong government and local companies to push for technological innovations and eventually make Hong Kong a top-notch smart city.”
Didi, through formerly Kuai Taixi, has partnered with more than 20,000 taxi drivers, which account for more than half of the total local cabbies. Didi reports 6 million registered users in the city.
Didi’s top priority
The move comes as part of Didi’s plan to expand outside of mainland China.
As Cheng Wei, founder and chief executive of Didi, puts in an interview, “In 2018, making breakthroughs in global markets will be a top priority for Didi.”
Uber’s stumbles around the world served as a classical textbook for all regional ride hailers with a world map in their mind, Didi certainly doesn’t want to make the same mistakes. A pilot in Hong Kong, a city with both familiar Chinese atmosphere and significant western influence, seems a good choice in verifying Didi’s overseas expansion ambition.
Just like other Chinese tech giants, for instance, Alibaba and Tencent, would also choose Hong Kong to pilot their global expansion strategy.
A tough challenge ahead
Although Didi is not new to the Hong Kong market, the company’s attempt to best its local counterparts won’t be easy.
The first challenge is Hong Kong’s saturated taxi market. Secondly, most local citizens are used to take public transportations which are cheaper and much more convenient. According to a report by the Hong Kong government, only 7.4% passengers have used a taxi in 2016, making the city one of the most difficult cities for ride-hailing companies to grow. Besides, Didi has to take on more established local players including Uber, Singapore’s Ryde and homegrown Hopsee.
Currently, Didi’s services available in Hong Kong are:
- Users (including mainland China and Taiwan users) can tap the app for taxi hailing, currently cash payment only with e-payment to be introduced.
- In-app communication between passengers and cabbies, no phone calls needed.
- Bigdata-powered prediction of taxi ETA.
- Customer service available 24/7.
- Taxi bookup free of charge.