Uber: We’ll be China’s number one taxi app within a year

Uber says it is on course to topple bitter rival Didi Chuxing and become China’s most popular ride-on demand service within a year.

That’s according to Zhen Liu, SVP of Strategy at Uber China who oversees the company’s business in the country. During an interview at Converge in Hong Kong, Liu stated her firm would overtake Didi on overall marketshare within the next twelve months.

Liu claimed Uber is growing rapidly in China, to the point that it is only a matter of time before it snatches the top spot.

“Last year, we were only operating in eight cities and we were [at] about one percent marketshare. A year later, we are about one-third of the marketshare and operating in over sixty cities across China,” she said.

A change at the top would represent a remarkable achievement for Uber. The firm has only been in China for just over two years and, as its own CEO has acknowledged, it has poured billions into a fierce rivalry with four-year-old Didi — which itself was created via a merger when China’s top two ride-sharing firms abandoned an expensive subsidies battle to join forces in 2015.

Generally speaking it is hard to find accurate data that measures how Uber and Didi, which is present in over 400 cities, are performing in China, although most reports and watchers peg Didi as being a large margin ahead. Nevertheless, China remains the most important market for Uber worldwide, Liu said. Six of Uber’s top ten busiest cities are located in China, and she expects that China will continue to account for even more of its top locations.

Uber China earlier this year raised more than $1 billion at a $7 billion valuation, and Liu said that the company is actively raising funding once again. From her comments and part history, it seems likely that some of that round will come from parent company, Uber Inc, which just closed a $3.5 billion investment from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF). Although Liu did not explicitly say that.

Didi, by contrast, is backed by local Chinese giants including Alibaba and Tencent, while Apple recently joined the party with a landmark $1 billion investment in the firm last month. Interviewed separately at Converge, Didi’s Senior Director for International Strategy, Li Zijian, was more diplomatic on the rivalry, pointing out that his firm isn’t concerned with others.

“There’s lot of competition in the ride-sharing market, that’s true [but] what we are really doing is to focus on what’s in front of us,” Li said. “It’s like running a hurdles race, if you want to win a hurdles race the only thing you need to focus on is what’s in front of you. You don’t really look over your shoulder to see what other athletes are doing.”