Uber is often talked about for its potential to develop into a global logistics service, and customers in Hong Kong are getting a glimpse at what that might look like after a new ‘rent-a-van’ service called Uber Cargo launched in the city-state.
The U.S. company often trials new project in single cities. It launched bike couriers in New York last year, for example, and Uber Cargo looks to be another experiment that is telling of what the company is planning to offer beyond just taxis.
The Cargo service has actually been in quiet beta in Hong Kong, according to an Uber blog post. Uber said that the service is ideal for ferrying any kind of item around:
With UberCARGO, a van arrives wherever you want it to be in minutes. You can load your items in the back of the van yourself or request the driver’s assistance if you need an extra hand. Deliveries can easily be tracked in real-time through the app, the item’s location can be shared with the recipient and you can even ride along with your goods so you’ll have ease of mind that your items are safe.
Prices are based on the distance of the trip and also time taken, Uber explained.
Why Hong Kong?
The busy city-state is already a thriving market for van rental services. Two ‘Uber for logistics’ startups already exist there, and both have raised significant amounts of funding from investors.
Lalamove — also known as EasyVan — raised $10 million just this week, while rival GoGoVan closed a $6.5 million seed round and scored a $10 million investment from Chinese social network Renren in 2014.
Lalamove and GoGoVan are both based in Hong Kong, but have wider plans for Asia. Lalamove is already present in six cities across China and Southeast Asia and, with new money in its coffers, it plans to expand in both of those regions.
GoGoVan hasn’t gone beyond Hong Kong yet, but its founders have spoken of plans to enter China, Japan and Southeast Asia this year. Correction: GoGoVan currently serves nine cities across six countries and its founders are keen to move into new territory this year too.
Uber covers more than 200 cities worldwide, including 35 in Asia Pacific, so don’t be surprised to see its van service rapidly expanding into Southeast Asia and China, and potentially other markets, soon.
The U.S. company’s brand and visibility is such that it can allow young startups to take the lead on new business ideas, but once they gain traction, it needs to follow suit rapidly. Uber’s move into logistics suggests that both Lalamove and GoGoVan may be on to something — and it will be interesting to see how this business/service develops in 2015.
Uber confirmed that its latest $1.2 billion financing round will go towards expanding its presence in Asia. We’ve already seen it put significant resources into India and add Baidu as a strategic investor in China — Uber Cargo is another reminder that new Uber initiatives can (and do) come from outside of the company’s U.S. headquarters. We might yet see more services originate in Asia first as part of Uber’s new-found focus on the region.
Uber Cargo looks like it is primarily targeting business users, but Lalamove executive Blake Larson told TechCrunch earlier this week that he believes there is also a strong market for consumers. Larson, who heads up Lalamove outside of China, said this year is about validating the startup’s business model — Uber’s move to rival it with its logistics service is one checkbox ticked for the startup.