Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing Technology Co.is teaming up with SoftBank Group Corp.to help Japan's taxi industry deploy cars more efficiently, in a move likely to stymie the ambitions of Uber Technologies Inc.in the country. Didi has raised almost $20 billion including a $4 billion round for global expansion which closed in December.
With Didi and SoftBank set to offer yet another competitor, it is no surprise that Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has made Japan the first stop of his inaugural trip to Asia as head of the ride-sharing firm. Currently DiDi has established partnerships with about 500 taxi operators in China. Indeed, Uber works with licensed chauffeurs and licensed taxi drivers in Japan, but the USA firm hasn't cracked the market like it has in other countries.
The Chinese company is also looking to break into Mexico and is expanding its presence in regions outside the Chinese mainland, including Hong Kong and Taiwan. SoftBank has backed Uber rivals Ola and Grab, and it even considered a stake in Lyft.
SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son said this week that given the shifts in the auto market, car-hailing platforms "may have bigger value than the automobile itself" in the future. Uber's new Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi will meet regulators there on his first visit to Asia later this month. Line's hailing service sits inside its app - which is Japan's most popular messenger - and it has integrated with taxi operators that include Nihon Kotsu, but it is unclear how popular it is now following its 2015 launch.
Didi is also trying to diversify at home.
Both partners believe DiDi's deep learning-based demand prediction and smart dispatch systems, combined with SoftBank's local resources and expertise, will power Japan's taxi ride-hailing services.
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