Competition in the start-up scene just got war-like, with leading taxi-hailing services in South East Asia, China and the US forming an alliance against Uber. India’s Ola, China’s Didi Kuaidi, the US’s Lyft and GrabTaxi, that is popular in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Vitenam and Thailand, next year onwards, will allow users to book cabs from each other’s apps in all regions that they operate. This would mean that they can potentially reach nearly half of the world’s population.
Potential aside, how this competition is going to play out should be interesting to watch. While Uber is the world’s largest app-based ride-hailing service, both in terms of network and valuation, it is not the biggest player in South East Asia and China. Ola has a presence in 102 Indian cities while Uber is present in just 22. Similarly, Didi Kuaidi offers rides in 300 Chinese cities while Uber can be used in just 15—it may, thus, seem like Goliaths ganging up on a David. Be that as it may, while the new partners may benefit from sharing technology, local market knowledge, and business resources, the fact remains the companies hardly have a presence outside their home territories. So, how useful the partnership will be still remains a question. Besides, Ola, Lyft et al need to remember that they are yet to expand beyond their ride-hailing businesses, while Uber is already playing at becoming a leader in the driverless car space. What is interesting, though, is that all four allies have received funding, as reported by Quartz, from the same group of investors—Tiger Capital, Softbank and Coatue Management. Is this more consolidation than competition?