Didi Kuaidi, China’s Dominant Taxi App Firm, Launches Carpooling Service

Uber launched a nonprofit car-pooling service in China called People’s Uber last year, and now its biggest rival — and China’s largest ride-sharing service — has followed suit with a service of its own.

‘Didi Shun Feng Che’ is the new car-pooling service from Didi Kuaidi, the entity created from the billion dollar merger between Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache, two organizations estimated to account for over 95 percent of China’s taxi-hailing app industry.

Like other carpooling services, Didi Shun Feng Che uses a smartphone app and “big data and advanced matching techniques” to match car owners with customers looking for a ride. It is initially live in Beijing — from today — and the company said it plans to expand to cover 26 Chinese cities by the end of this month.

Didi Kuaidi claimed it has already recruited one million drivers to the platform, while it is using a varying price structure based on each city. The standard fee will be 5-10 CNY ($0.80-$1.60) with an additional 1 CNY ($0.16) added per kilometer — Didi Kuaidi will make no money from the service, initially at least. The company claimed registered drivers are motivated by “cost sharing during their commutes” rather than making profit, hence the low fees.

The organization landed investment from China’s top microblogging site — Weibo — last week, and it’s interesting to note that the Didi Shun Feng Che will be bound to WeChat, China’s top messaging app which is owned by Didi Kuaidi investor Tencent. That’s to say that users will need to log in to the service using their WeChat account, while payment will be handed by the messaging app too.

That’s a double win for Tencent, which could see boosted engagement and more users adding their payment details, while Didi Kuaidi stands to benefit from WeChat’s fairly advanced payments system, and the verification and accountability that come with using a person’s own account.

Finally, the company is pushing this new program as a ‘green’ initiative that could help cut down on China’s chronic urban pollution problems. It has partnered with the Civilization Office of Beijing’s Haidian District, to launch the service today.

It’s worth recalling that carpooling is a very different proposition to taxi-hailing, and it’s still very much in its infancy in China. For now, neither Uber nor Didi Kuaidi is charging for its respective service, its about brand and platform building at this point.

In other news, and further proof of its ambition, Didi Kuaidi recently pledged to spend $161 million to give its customers two 15 RMB (US$2.42) discount per day if they use its new ‘Express’ service. That’ll make Uber’s (already stiff) challenge of denting its rival’s dominance in China even harder.