Saudi Electronic University How Didi Fought Uber in China and Won Essay


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How Didi Fought Uber in China and Won: Next, Taking on the World 

Your assignment this week will focus on the case study about Uber and its competitive entry into the Chinese market (p. 560 in the textbook). We once again visit the country of China, this time to look at the transportation ride-sharing sector of the market. 

Reflecting on this week’s content focusing on ethical leadership, strategy, and alliances, develop an essay responding to the following questions.

Why      did Uber want to expand into China and what was so appealing about the      Chinese market?

What      advantages did Didi have to help it win its competitive battle with Uber?

What      are the pros and cons of the merger between Didi and Uber China, comparing      and contrasting their different expansion strategies and tactics while      taking into consideration ethical leadership and alliances?

Assume      you have been hired by Didi to evaluate Uber’s leadership team and the      company culture they foster. Include in your evaluation the strengths of      the Uber management team as well as the weaknesses that Didi could      capitalize on in order to make Didi’s company more appealing to      customers. 

In-Depth Integrative Case 4.1
How Didi Fought Uber in China and Won; Next, Taking On the
Technology is constantly evolving, and firms who have leveraged the unprecedented growth
rate of modern innovation have seen quick success. Didi Chuxing, China’s largest ridesharing
servicer, is no exception. With roots dating back to 2012, Didi has quickly gained Chinese
support, and with over 7.4 billion rides completed in 2017, Didi’s emphasis on technology has
allowed the young ridesharing firm to gain monopolistic authority within China.1
Rising transportation demand in China has created intense ridesharing competition within
China, and Didi’s early expansion efforts were obstructed by competitors, most notably Uber,
who entered China in 2014. With locations in over 60 countries, Uber had the experience
needed to quickly gain a foothold within China. Hefty subsidies, discounts, and marketing
promotions propelled the competitive battle between Uber and Didi, and the immediate
influence of Uber’s reputation led to a quick deterioration of Didi’s market dominance.
Nonetheless, governmental protectionism, strong Chinese partners, and a unique cultural
landscape in China presented Didi with the competitive edge needed to halt Uber’s expansion.2
Fierce opposition weakened revenues, and each firm reported losses exceeding US$1 billion
within the first year of competition.3 As a result, in August of 2016, Uber and Didi agreed to
US$35 billion alliance in which Didi would acquire Uber China. In return, Uber would receive an
initial 5.89 percent stake in the combined company, and with preferred equity interest, Uber’s
total position amounted to 17.7 percent.4 This announcement effectively halted Uber’s effort
to compete head-on with Didi in China and confirmed Didi’s dominance over the Chinese
ridesharing market.
The acquisition of Uber China meant only temporary peace to cut throat ridesharing
competition, and new wars are beginning to emerge as the two firms each strive to gain global
ridesharing dominance. Uber is now faced with a difficult situation as Chinese authority and
growing revenue streams inch Didi closer to global superiority. As Didi prepares to expand into
international markets, it is only a matter of time before these two players clash once again.5
An Evolving Chinese Ridesharing Market
China has quickly become the world’s largest provider of ridesharing services, and in 2017, a
total of 20.81 billion rides were offered through these platforms. Today, ridesharing accounts
for almost 2 percent of all transportation within China.6 While ridesharing may retain only a
modest presence, it is nonetheless the fastest growing method of transportation in the nation
as these services have been available for less than a decade. Rapid growth justifies China’s
US$30 billion ride hailing market valuation, and continued development has led analysts to
believe that this market will double in size by the end of 2020.7
Ridesharing within China offers a sustainable solution to China’s road congestion and emission
pollution issues. According to the World Bank, China’s transportation sector accounts for nearly
55 percent of oil consumption, and transportation related carbon emissions amounted to
nearly 900 million tons in 2016.8 Furthermore, a recent study conducted by the Asian
Development Bank found that 7 of the 10 most polluted cities in the world are located in China.
The World Health Organization has additionally reported that only 1 percent of all Chinese
cities meet air quality standards, and in some cities, particulate matter pollution is more than
10 times the WHO limit.9
Chinese consumers are more willing to try new products and are more accepting of new
technology, leading to a quick embrace of ride hailing services by both Chinese citizens and
governments. A recent study by Bain and Company noted that 62 percent of Chinese
respondents listed e-hailing services as their primary driver of increased mobility preferences.
Conversely, less progressive nations such as the U.S. and Germany had only 29 percent and 23
percent of respective respondents list e-hailing as a mobility preference contributor.10
Governmental vehicle limitations have also contributed to mounting ridesharing support. In an
effort to curb pollution and congestion, China has implemented many regulations aimed at
limiting the number of vehicles on the road. In Beijing for instance, a city with some of the most
congested roads in the world, citizens are only eligible to drive on predefine dates based on
their license plates numbers. Furthermore, mounting taxes, fees, and restraints associated with
purchasing and operating a vehicle have forced many to rethink transportation.11 In 2016, the
country legalized ridesharing, thus becoming the first developed country to nationally do so.
This legislation would require all drivers to pass national background checks and car
inspections, and China’s willingness to embrace ridesharing shows its eagerness to improve
domestic transportation options.12
Didi Chuxing: Building a Better Journey
Growing transportation concerns within China increased the demand for new and innovative
methods of travel. As a result, in 2012, rideshare servicer Didi Dache was established. Founded
by Cheng Wei, a former Alibaba employee who had grown tired of the difficulty associated with
hailing a cab during rush hour, Didi Dache received early national embrace.13 Ridesharing
expanded quickly, and by 2015, China’s rideshare servicers were transporting over 150 million
monthly users. Early success was headed by both Didi Dache and competitor Kuaidi Dache, and
the combined position of these two firms amounted to nearly 95 percent of China’s ridesharing
Competition between these two service leaders grew in hostility, and by February of 2015, the
firms agreed to end their competitive battle through a merger. The merged company would
rebrand itself as Didi Kuaidi, later to be changed to Didi Chuxing, and valuations for the newly
formed ridesharing monopoly were placed at around US$6 billion.15 Merging not only ended
competition, but it also allowed for multiple legal and regulatory advantages, especially in
China’s more restrictive cities like Shanghai and Beijing where drivers were prohibited from
using multiple ridesharing apps.16 Additionally, Uber’s expansion into China in 2014 meant that
combining resources and knowledge would be the only way either company could survive. By
the time the merger was finalized, the combined firm controlled an 80 percent majority of
China’s private car hailing market.17
Didi Chuxing now offers upscale limousine rides, food delivery services, inner city busing, and
bike sharing in addition to its typical express ridesharing. While Didi has yet to expand outside
of China, heavy international investments have allowed the firm to gain a global footprint. Didi
now has relationships with Lyft in America, Ola in India, GrabTaxi in Southeast Asia, 99 in Latin
America, and Taxify in Europe (see Figure 1).18
Figure 1 Didi Chuxing’s Global Partnerships
Source: Bhuiyan, Johana, and Rani Molla. “Didi is Chasing Uber Around the World.” Vox, August
10, 2017.
Didi Chuxing has the goal of “building a better journey,” and the firm’s vision of “Becoming a
global leader in the revolution of transportation and automotive technology” describes how the
firm plans to achieve this ambition. These ideas are central to the firm’s nearly 10,000
employees, half of which are engineers and data scientists.19 Didi has supported its vision
through heavy investments in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and electronic vehicles.
Innovation has spawned expansion, and investments by Apple have resulted in a shared Silicon
Valley research and development lab that focuses on AI advancement and self-driving
technology. For Didi, this lab is only one of three research facilities, and the firm has been using
machine learning and data collection to improve the fluidity of its services since its founding.20
Didi Chuxing’s emphasis on improving its services through innovation is most clearly
demonstrated through its Smart Transportation Brain technology. Through a partnership with
the Chinese government, Didi has been able to combine its camera and sensor data with
governmental road reports to proactively manage traffic in real time. For instance, data sharing
has led to the installation of smart traffic lights that decrease road congestion. The severity of
transportation issues within China has led to governmental backing as both Didi and the
Chinese government share similar goals of traffic alleviation. Governmental support, mixed with
an environment that encourages ridesharing, [has] greatly contributed to Didi’s dominance
within China.21
Managing Mounting Threats
While Didi’s capabilities have created success, generating a consistent profit remains a major
challenge for the firm. Cheng Wei has often hinted at the private firm’s stressed financial
situation, and in 2018, Didi was rumored to have a net loss of US$1.6 billion. High losses are a
result of rider subsidies, and Didi is known for underpricing competitors and attracting new
users through deep discounts. Driver shortages—a result of regulations that prohibit migrant
workers from driving—have also cut into revenue.22 Although most ridesharing competitors,
like Uber, have yet to generate a profit, the extent of Didi’s losses in such a concentrated
market are particularly worrisome for the firm.23
Didi’s per ride revenue averages around 16 cents, and with as many as 30 million daily rides
given, the profit potential for the company is enormous. Nonetheless, post subsidy profit can
be as little as 1.6 cents and total 2018 subsidies were estimated at US$1.7 billion. The firm has
only been able to survive in such a loss heavy environment due to the support of strong
domestic partners and partnerships with Alibaba, Softbank, Tencent, and Apple. These
investments have generated US$12 billion of on-hand cash, which continues to fund subsidies,
tech innovation, and expand the firm’s international presence. While Didi may remain a loss
leader for some time, the growing ubiquity of the firm’s presence will most likely lead to profits
in the long run.24
Recent attacks against riders have weakened Didi’s perception of safety. Even though Didi’s
accident rates are far lower than that of a traditional taxis, there has been much backlash
against the firm ever since two female passengers were killed by Didi drivers in early 2018. Both
incidents were directly linked to faults within Didi’s platform, such as the firm’s lack of
receptiveness to user complaints. In response to these attacks, Didi announced that it would
not focus on profits until all safety concerns were addressed. Didi has since introduced random
biometric ID testing in addition to the selfie-based login system previously used to identify
drivers and added an in-app SOS button that is linked to a special police response team focused
on dealing with transportation threats. Wei hopes that these efforts will revitalize Didi’s
damaged image.25
Negative backlash has not halted Didi’s push forward, and international support is growing so
rapidly that valuation estimates have begun to rival that of Uber.26 Similarly, Fortune magazine
has ranked Didi 53rd on its 2018 list of companies changing the world due to the progress the
firm has made in limiting road congestion and decreasing transportation-induced
environmental impacts.27 Didi’s influence has led to Cheng Wei being listed as Forbes Asia’s
2016 Businessman of the year, and this innovative mentality has also resulted in Didi being
ranked 4th on CBNC’s 2018 Disruptor 50 list, a ranking that presents the top companies
changing their respective industries.28
China’s Business Environment
Rapid growth has expanded individual wealth, and more than half of all households within
China will be considered middle class by 2022. The nation’s per capita disposable income is now
around 28,000 yuan, or 4,000 dollars.29 Increasing wealth has shifted preferences and
discretionary spending has grown 13.4 percent since 2010. As wages and consumption rise, the
population is beginning to spend more on entertainment, relaxation, and travel—all of which
influence ridesharing demand.30 New spending patterns have also attracted foreign firms, and
many now invest heavily in this high-growth market. Within the last 10 years alone, China has
received over 20 percent of all developing countries’ FDI, and with over US$100 billion invested
annually, China has become one of the most heavily targeted nations in the world.31
Although China has opened its markets, cultural and regulatory obstacles have nonetheless
obstructed many foreign firms’ entrances. China operates under a hybrid economic system,
meaning that some sectors are market-based, while others remain state-owned and protected.
Most industries fall in the middle of this spectrum and governmental backing of domestic firms
has limited the entrance of foreign competitors.32 Foreign tech and retail giants, such as
Google and Walmart, have faced many restrictions within China, and the nation uses
protectionism as a tactic to grow local economies. This protectionist emphasis explains why
Chinese firms consistently outperform foreign rivals.33
Business etiquette varies significantly within China, and many western firms have historically
found it difficult to operate within the nation’s rigid business environment. Within China,
leadership is synonymous to loyalty and it is taboo for subordinates to question upper
management. Strict group structures heavily influence the way in which management operates,
and many Chinese communities believe that western leadership hierarchies are too relaxed.
These leadership differences were key contributors to the early hostilities felt between Didi
Chuxing and Uber, and different mentalities fueled the passion each enterprise felt over
establishing its own cultural precedent within China’s ridesharing industry.34
China’s business environment has similarly impacted the way ridesharing has been addressed
within the nation. On a national level, regulations require that ridesharing firms hire local
residents, and that both drivers and vehicles obtain specific certifications. Drivers must have a
minimum of three years driving experience and no criminal record, and they must be licensed
by local taxi authorities. As compared to other nations, China is much more open to ridesharing,
and it was the first country to nationally address the industry. This openness demonstrates
both executive level support for domestic growth and a culturally progressive mindset.
Governmental support of ridesharing was ultimately an important factor of Uber’s market
Uber: Setting the World in Motion
Founded by Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp in 2009, Uber is now regarded as a ridesharing
pioneer and global industry leader. Since Uber’s first San Francisco ride in 2010, Page 563the
firm has prioritized development, and in just 10 years, Uber has become one of the world’s
most valuable private startups. While valuations peaked at US$72 billion in 2017, many still
regard Uber as a leader in the future of transportation, and many more believe that its
aggressive demeanor will lead to both domestic and international success.36
Established as a taxi service, Uber now offers a multitiered platform of transportation and
logistic solutions, including shipping, food delivery, electronic bikes, and limousines. This
diversification has expanded Uber’s potential and has grown the company beyond ridesharing.
Today, services like Uber Eats now make up 17 percent of total business.37 Furthermore, with a
mission that reads, “To ignite opportunity by setting the world in motion,” Uber and its 2
million global drivers focus on bettering the future of transportation. In doing so, Uber has
emphasized technology advancement and is currently investing in innovative travel solutions,
ranging from autonomous vehicles to flying cars.38
In 2018 alone, ridesharing services in the U.S. generated US$15.6 billion, and revenues are
anticipated to reach US$26.3 billion by 2023. Additionally, the U.S. currently has 50 million
registered ridesharing users, and 11 million new riders are estimated to emerge within the next
five years.39 For Uber, the bulk of its business remains domestic, and while premiums are
generally higher in the U.S., market growth is more promising internationally. For instance, a
major consideration of international ridesharing growth is vehicles per capita. The United States
has one of the highest vehicle per capita rates, and 88 percent of U.S. citizens own a car,
compared to about 10 percent globally.40 This disparity in transportation accessibility has
caused many American ridesharing firms to expand into foreign nations, such as China, where
the market potential is larger. Higher demand for ridesharing internationally has led to
expedited foreign growth, and by 2025, the global ridesharing industry will be 10 times larger
than that of the U.S.41
Uber has focused on international expansion since its inception. In December of 2011, a little
more than a year after the firm’s first San Francisco ride, Uber expanded into Paris. Within the
next two years, the firm grew its operations across 6 continents. Today, Uber is active in over
600 cities in 70 unique countries (see Figure 2). Nevertheless, almost a third of these locations
are within North America, and Uber’s largest presence remains domestic.42 As a result, most of
the firm’s income is generated within the U.S., and despite a growing international focus, over
57 percent of Uber’s revenues will come from North America by 2022.43
Figure 2 Uber’s Operations Around the Globe
Source: Bhuiyan, Johana, and Rani Molla. “Didi is Chasing Uber Around the World.” Vox, August
10, 2017.
Foreign competition and international backlash have inhibited Uber’s success, and while the
firm is becoming globally known, many foreign developments have been ineffective. Uber’s
expansion techniques have typically involved offering deep discounts while leveraging the
prestige associated with its brand.44 Uber rarely makes local adjustments, and the firm has
often been criticized for not adapting to the cultural, economic, and political environments of
an area it expands into. As a result, many have questioned the speed of Uber’s expansion and
condemn the company for not taking the time to properly adapt to the nuances of the locations
it enters. Uber’s expansive setbacks can be linked to its “think local to expand global” attitude
and many believe that the largest inhibitor to Uber’s success has been its inability to adapt.45
Many have also questioned the legal and societal aspects of Uber’s services, and fierce
lobbying, especially by taxi unions, has disrupted international expansion. Opposition has led to
violent protests and state-wide bans in places like Hungary, Italy, and France. In Morocco, Uber
drivers have claimed that disputes with taxi servicers have resulted in physical harm, threats,
and unlawful detainment. As attacks become more common, many passengers question the
safety of the service.46
Growing opposition and overly eager expansion plans have damaged Uber’s financial position,
and costly battles within less open-minded countries have slowed revenue growth. While selfreported financial statements show that revenues reached US$11.3 billion in 2018, many
speculators are concerned with the firm’s slowing growth. Furthermore, after deducting
expenses, Uber showed a net loss of US$1.8 billion in 2018. This loss can be mainly attributed to
unsuccessful international expansions, brand damage control, and regulatory lawsuits.47 Along
with revenue concerns, Uber has also been plagued by leadership scandals. Travis Kalanick, cofounder and CEO of Uber, was known to support a workplace culture that tolerated both
discrimination and sexual harassment. Kalanick was forced to step down after the firm’s five
largest investors threatened to pull their funding.48 Traditionally, Uber’s overall leadership has
placed a high focus on growth, resulting in a hostile company culture, which one former
employee described as “Hobbesian.” Growth has always undermined employee well-being, and
“workers were often pitted against one another while a blind eye was turned to infractions
from top performers.” Corrupt leadership and a toxic work environment have resulted in
multiple lawsuits, new management, and faulty expansive efforts.49
Uber’s Milestones
•Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp launch UberCab.
•UberCab is rebranded as Uber.
•Travis Kalanick replaces Ryan Graces as CEO.
•The Uber app launches on iPhone and Android.
•Uber performs its first ever ride, taking a single passenger across San Francisco.
•Domestic expansion begins and services are offered in cities such as New York and
•First international launch in Paris, France.
•First round of funding results in over US$11 million of investments.
•Expands into France.
•Ridesharing becomes primary focus through the launching of UberX.
•Competitor Lyft is founded.
•Expands into Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
•Begins looking for opportunities in Asia, taking off in Taipei, Taiwan.
•Targets Central and South American through Mexico City expansion.
•Establishes a global mindset by launching in Johannesburg, South Africa.
•USA Today names Uber Tech Company of the year.
•Expands into India, Mexico, Germany, South Africa, Taiwan, and the United Arab
•Enters China.
•Chinese firm Baidu backs Uber with a US$600 million investment.
•UberRush launches as a courier service that uses bicycle messengers to deliver
•UberPool begins allowing travelers to share rides.
•UberMilitary is founded to help returning veterans gain employment
•Enters its 100th City
•Expands into Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Czech Republic, China,
Columbia, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Israel,
Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Panama,
Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, and
•Didi Chuxing is founded through a merger between Kuaidi Dache and Didi Dache.
•Didi and Lyft form a US$100 million partnership.
•Ola, Grab, Didi, and Lyft announce the Joint Global Technology and Service
Alliance to battle Uber.
•UberCargo launches as a bulk shipping platform.
•UberFresh is rebranded as UberEats, growing the firm’s position in food delivery
•Specific locations begin accepting cash fees.
•First autonomous robotics research facility opens.
•First public acquisition occurs when Uber purchases map startup deCarta.
•Domestic regulatory pressures grow after California’s Labor Commission classifies
Uber drivers as employees.
•Performs its one billionth ride.
•Enters its 300th city.
•Expands into Costa Rica, Croatia, Estonia, Ghana, Jordan, Kenya, Lithuania, Macao,
Morocco, Peru, Romania, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Uganda.
•China becomes the first country to nationally deem ridesharing legal.
•Didi Chuxing announces its acquisition of Uber China.
•Scheduled ride services launch allowing passengers to book rides up to 30 days in
•Street mapping begins as a way to improve and maximize route logistics.
•First self-driving vehicle pilot takes place.
•Regulatory uncertainty rises in the U.S. forces Uber to leave cities like Austin,
•Global regulatory disputes temporarily force Uber out of countries such as Italy,
Israel, and the UK.
•Performs its two billionth ride just six months after hitting one billion trips.
•Enters its 500th city.
•Expands into: Argentina, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Guatemala, Pakistan, Tanzania,
Uganda, and Ukraine.
•UberFreight launches, connecting trucking companies and drivers with shippers.
•Passengers under 17 become eligible to use Uber.
•Passengers are now able to tip drivers.
•Launches Visa-sponsored Uber credit card.
•Walmart announces home delivery through Uber partnership.
•Partners with NASA to work on the development of flying vehicles.
•Travis Kalanick is forced to resign as CEO amidst rumors of workplace
discrimination and sexual misconduct.
•Dara Khosrowshahi replaces Kalanick as CEO.
•Alphabet files a lawsuit against Uber claiming theft of self-driving vehicle
intellectual property.
•Travis Kalanick is forced to resign as CEO amidst rumors of workplace
discrimination and sexual misconduct.
•Dara Khosrowshahi replaces Kalanick as CEO.
•Alphabet files a lawsuit against Uber claiming theft of self-driving vehicle
intellectual property.
A New Challenger in China
Despite governmental uncertainty, cultural differences, and other variable entry barriers, Uber
launched in China in February of 2014. Attracted by China’s ridesharing market potential, Uber
hoped to capitalize on the nation’s transportation limitations and growing population.
Furthermore, in order to overcome the legal ambiguity of ridesharing in China, Uber entered
the nation through partnerships with multiple domestic vehicle leasing servicers and
technology companies. The largest of these partners was Chinese tech giant Baidu, and Uber
reworked its internal platform to run on Baidu Maps. This partnership was crucial to Uber’s
entrance, as Uber typically relies on Google Maps to operate, which is banned in China.50 Prior
to entrance, Uber was valued at US$17 billion, and this valuation more than doubled after a
year of operating within China.51
Growing competition in the U.S. ridesharing industry, along with pressure by other
transportation services, pushed Uber to look for opportunities outside of the U.S. Widespread
unification of cab drivers led to country-wide lawsuits, collective lobbying efforts, and
governmental complaints. Taxi unions fought to retain their dominance by emphasizing
ridesharing’s safety concerns and lack of regulation. By 2015, ridesharing companies like Uber
had managed to gain a substantial 29 percent market share, while car rental agencies and taxis
held onto 36 percent and 35 percent shares, respectively.52
Uber viewed the lack of widespread Chinese competition as an additional reason to enter the
market. Prior to entrance, the only major players within China were Kuaidi Dache and Didi
Dache, which would soon merge to form Didi Chuxing. Furthermore, China’s large population
and low vehicles rates meant that Didi and taxi servicers combined could still not meet the
nation’s high transportation demand. As a result, taxi driver backlash and protests were not as
concerning, and Uber anticipated that competitive battles over costumer acquisitions would be
less fierce.53
The appeals of the Chinese market allowed Uber to quickly grow, and aggressive expansion
techniques led to the rapid diffusion of Uber’s brand. By June of 2016, five of Uber’s ten largest
cities by volume were in China. In less than two years, Uber had expanded into 60 of the
nation’s most populous cities, and it had hoped to double its presence by 2017.54 Two years
after expansion, Uber also announced that it possessed a modest 30 percent market share
within China, and Uber’s American image had gradually gained familiarity throughout the
nation. Chinese competencies had grown faster than those in North America, and ride volume
in China quickly surpassed that of the U.S. However, costs had also grown much faster, and
quick growth resulted in unsustainable expenses and unexpectedly fierce competitive
Ridesharing Difficulties in a Foreign Landscape
Despite early success, Uber quickly found itself amongst a tide of swelling threats.
Governmental and societal backlash emerged as the ridesharing firm grew in popularity. In
addition to growing city-wide mandates, the national government begun to discuss the
possibility of enacting countrywide regulations shortly after Uber’s entrance. Mounting
pressure to regulate and add safety standards threatened Uber’s position. Furthermore, since
there was no formal ruling on the legality of ridesharing at the time of Uber’s entrance, many
wrongly believed that the service was illegal. This lack of clarity resulted in general hesitation by
both drivers and riders.56
In addition to legal and societal opposition, Uber also faced the realities of significant marketing
expenses, driver incentives, and passenger discounts.57 Finding drivers within China had been
much harder than in other international locations due to the nation’s many local and national
vehicle restrictions, including the prohibition of immigrants and out of city workers from
driving. To attract drivers, Uber was forced to pay pricey sign-on bonuses and increase the
percentage of fares that drivers kept.58
At the time of Uber’s entrance, Didi had been using deep subsidies as a tactic to buy passenger
loyalty, expand into new locations, and promote the general image of ridesharing, and Uber
was forced to respond with even more aggressive price cuts. Increased rider incentives, such as
promotional rides and sign up bonuses, meant that Uber was losing money on each ride it
performed. Losses amounted to over US$1 billion in Uber’s first year of entrance.59
In order to support these losses, Uber and Didi both needed to attract funding and investments.
Baidu had been financing Uber China since its inception, and aggressive investment lobby
efforts by Didi resulted in funding from Chinese conglomerates such as Tencent and Alibaba. In
2016 alone, Didi accumulated US$7.3 billion in backing, with most of this funding coming from
Apple, Alibaba, and China Life Insurance. Uber China responded with similar efforts that
resulted in US$5 billion of investments from companies like Toyota and Tiger Global
Over time Uber’s tactics put pressure on Didi, and by 2016, Didi’s market share had shrunk from
a near monopoly to 60 percent. Furthermore, in the wake of this competitive battle, smaller
companies such as Yidao and Shenzhou begun to emerge, gradually taking their own cut out of
China’s ridesharing market.61 As Uber gained experience in China, it [began] expanding into
smaller and less wealthy tier 3 and 4 cities. The cost of maintenance and acquisition rose with
these expansions as these locations had been isolated from Uber’s impact so far. Expansion and
discounts were required to gain business, but this strategy hurt Uber by adding to its
substantial annual loses. Using subsidies to prioritize growth led to unsustainable losses and
unrealistic demand, and it allowed Didi to gain advantages over Uber.62
A Winning Battle: Didi’s Advantages over Uber
Despite aggressive attempts by Uber to gain a long-lasting position within China, Didi had
multiple advantages that allowed for its long-term sustainability. Didi could better weather the
storm of rampant losses, and its domestic edge would prove to be too impactful for Uber to
compete with.63
Didi Chuxing’s two years of prior experience within China proved to be one of the most
impactful advantages for the firm.64 Didi had historical data on what services, attributes, and
marketing strategies enticed Chinese customers best. While Uber did have more experience
expanding into international locations, China was completely unlike any market it had ever
entered. Didi’s first-to-market entrance countered Uber’s typical business model and left the
firm in an unfamiliar position.65
Having a longer history within China also meant that Didi had a larger presence. While Uber had
hoped to expand into its 100th Chinese location by 2017, Didi was already present in over 400
cities a year prior. Didi was active in nearly as many locations within China as Uber was
globally.66 More importantly, by 2016 Didi was profitable in nearly half of its locations. At the
same time, high subsidies and startup costs made Uber unprofitable in every Chinese city it
More cities meant more daily rides, and by the end of 2015, Didi was performing more than
three times as many trips as Uber. Didi was also offering millions of more rides through private
transportation services like taxis, buses, and limousines. These other transportation steams
further diversified Didi’s capabilities, revenue, and image. Didi’s ranged competences allowed
for greater volume, a more widespread presence, and added service offerings. This, in turn,
translated into more experience, more employees, and more drivers early on.68
A Chinese focus also


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