Text by Zi Mo
Early this year, Chinese cab driversand riders received a specialNew Year gift: On January 10,Didi Taxi, a taxi hailing app,announced it would reward passengers10 yuan for paying cab fare with WeChatPayment up to three times daily, and givecabdrivers the same amount, up to fivetimes a day, in 32 Chinese cities. Severaldays later, another taxi hailing app, Kuaidi,partnered with Alipay to offer a similarincentive, creating a battle between China’stwo most popular taxi hailing apps.
Liu Yu, an employee of a Beijing realestate company, travels daily to a housingfund management center or a bank to helpclients with loan affairs. “I usually take ataxi on such errands,” he explains. “Becauseboth places are near my company,a single trip costs only 4 or 5 yuan after deductingthe 10 yuan rebate. So, I’ll happilyuse the app’s incentive as long as possible.”
Taxi drivers stand to benefit even more.“I use both apps,” one driver revealed.“With them, I can earn about 100 yuan ofextra income a day from 10 deals, whichworks out to more than 3,000 yuan amonth, a sum almost equal to what I usedto earn in a month.”
The ubiquity of the mobile internetand smartphones is changing traditionalways of hailing a cab. A quick click on asmartphone app not only eases strandedpassengers’ despair while they futilely attemptto secure a cab during rush hour, butalso reduces drivers’ downtime. Accordingto the Didi Taxi manager in Hangzhou,about a quarter of the city’s 17,000 cabdriversnow completely depend on taxi hailingapps to find fares.
Although China’s first taxi hailingsoftware, Yaoyao Taxi Booking, emergedas early as the end of 2011, the mobile taxiapp market didn’t boom until 2013. Thatyear, dozens of taxi hailing apps werereleased. Despite the fact that none of themhave turned a profit yet, the battle betweenapps is already heating up.
Many have invested huge sums to secure market shares. In the beginning,taxi hailing apps only offered incentives tocabdrivers, but now passengers also benefitfrom the promotions. The apps with thedeepest pockets managed to survive thefierce competition, and Kuaidi and DidiTaxi ultimately emerged as the marketfrontrunners. According to the Reporton China’s Taxi Hailing App Market forthe Third Quarter of 2013 released byEnfoDesk, a major market research andconsulting company, by the third quarterof last year, Kuaidi controlled 41.8 percentof the country’s taxi hailing app market,and Didi Taxi 39.2 percent. The report alsoshowed that the number of taxi app usersreached 20 million in China.