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China Uber-style taxi app raises $2 billion – Court revokes ban on Uber in New Delhi

PARIS: File photo shows a person using the French version of the Uber app to order a UberPop cab in Paris. Uber has suspended its controversial UberPOP service in France, the group’s spokesman announced on July 3, 2015. — AFP

PARIS: File photo shows a person using the French version of the Uber app to order a UberPop cab in Paris. Uber has suspended its controversial UberPOP service in France, the group’s spokesman announced on July 3, 2015. — AFP

BEIJING: China’s top taxi hailing app Didi Kuaidi announced yesterday it raised $2.0 billion in two weeks, after reports said US rival Uber planned to invest $1.1 billion in the country this year. Didi Kuaidi, which is backed by technology giants Alibaba and Tencent and calls itself the world’s largest one-stop mobile-based transportation network, said its fundraising attracted “tremendous interest” from global investors. It is looking to raise “a further few hundred million dollars” from new investors in the coming month, it added. “The fact that global investors are eager to participate in this fundraising round shows their confidence in the development of our company,” Cheng Wei, chief executive officer and chairman of the company, said in a statement.

The popularity of private-car booking enterprises such as Didi Kuaidi and San Francisco-based Uber has soared in China, where traditional taxis are criticised for poor service with rude drivers who routinely ignore customers on the street. For now the Chinese firm dominates the market, but the two are locked in a fierce battle for customers, offering both riders and drivers subsidies and discounts that are costing the companies vast sums.

Uber, which launched operations in China last year, said in a message to investors last month that it planned to invest seven billion yuan ($1.1 billion) in China, the Financial Times reported previously.Uber riders were making almost one million trips per day with business doubling in the previous month, its CEO Travis Kalanick said, adding the company plans to add 50 cities into its operational network, from the current 11. But Didi Kuaidi’s Cheng was confident that the company’s “clear competitive advantages” built “through its integrated platform, technology and team” would see it win out. “Didi Kuaidi is in a far better position to benefit from this tremendous opportunity than any other player in the mobile transportation industry in the world,” he said. Didi Kuaidi will use the capital raised to strengthen its market position, develop new services, improve technology and data research and enhance the user experience, said the statement.

Didi Kuaidi’s private car services fulfill three million rides daily and data from research firm Analysys International showed it has 80 percent of the market, the statement said. For taxi-hailing, the company holds 99 percent of the market, also with three million daily trips, it said. The company aims to serve more than 30 million passengers and 10 million drivers a day in three years’ time and ensure every passenger get a ride within three minutes of request anywhere in China, it added.

Indian court revokes ban
In another development, a Delhi court yesterday revoked a government ban imposed on online taxi firm Uber Technologies, clearing the way for the US-based company to operate in the capital city and reapply for a license. Uber was banned in New Delhi last December after one of its drivers was accused of rape.

The authorities rejected Uber’s license application last month and started impounding its vehicles, citing a violation of the ban. The Delhi High Court said the state government can impose strict conditions to regulate app-based taxi companies such as Uber but it does not favor a complete ban, a lawyer representing the Delhi government said. “Uber can now ply on Delhi roads,” government lawyer Naushad Ahmad Khan told Reuters. “It, however, has been asked to appear before the competent transport authority to pursue the application.” Uber approached a court to challenge the government’s decision to reject their license application after local rival Ola won a similar reprieve.

Uber welcomed the court’s directive yesterday. “We are committed to working with the government to develop a regulatory framework that encourages innovation,” said Gagan Bhatia, the company’s general manager in Delhi. The December incident had led to widespread outrage against online taxi companies that were primarily using mobile technology to connect drivers with passengers, but did not have proper government registrations or safety checks in place. Uber briefly halted operations in New Delhi in December, but resumed services in January after applying for a radio taxi license despite a state ban. — Agencies

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This article was published on 08/07/2015