Ever since Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s offer to invest in its Chinese rival was rejected last summer, the two companies have been in an epic battle to take over China’s ride-hailing market.
Cheng Wei, CEO of rival company Didi Kuaidi, told the Wall Street Journal that Kalanick’s message during that meeting was: “They had conquered the whole world and would also conquer China.” Cheng said that although Uber had an advantage by entering the ride-hailing game earlier, Didi would outdo it.
And it has. As Uber tries to expand its business in China, Didi seems to always be one step ahead. The Chinese company is available in over 80 cities as compared to Uber’s 16, and it raised $2 billion this summer while Uber is just now reportedly closing in on a $1 billion investment for UberChina. Didi’s company is also much larger that UberChina with 4,000 employees (not including drivers) to UberChina’s 200.
China’s urban commuter market is unmatched, which is why both companies are fighting so hard for it. The market alone is over twice the total U.S. population and anticipating growth as China’s middle class is expected to see an influx of hundreds of millions of people over the next decade.
Uber has plans that will hopefully help it catch up to its competitor. First of all, Kalanick, who ensures investors he is overseeing day-to-day operations in China, wants UberChina to be its own entity, separate from Uber. Didi has a huge advantage with the Chinese government because its local, and Uber hopes this will put the two companies on the same playing field.
UberChina plans to launch in 45 more cities over the next year. It has teamed up with Baidu Inc., a search-and-mapping leader, for more accurate mapping and an increased range of services. It will also be adding over 100,000 full-time-equivalent jobs per month in China. The company is luring in more drivers and enticing current drivers to work harder by offering large bonuses.