SoftBank has reportedly invested around $600 million in taxi app Kuaidi Dache (‘speedy taxi’) — which is backed by e-commerce giant Alibaba — making it the latest product of this type in which the Japanese company has shown interest.
SoftBank previously invested $250 million in GrabTaxi (one of the major rivals to Uber and Hailo in Southeast Asia), and $210 million in India’s Ola Cabs.
“Their investment and expertise will enable us to greatly broaden our market reach,” Lu Chuanwei, chief executive of Kuaidi Dache, is quoted as saying in a Financial Times report.
SoftBank head Masayoshi Son has made it clear that the company will not slow down investments in Asia’s “massive wave of internet revolution”.
China’s internet giants Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu have been upping their investments in taxi apps to increase their user base, even though the taxi industry in the country is heavily regulated. For instance, the government recently banned drivers of private cars offering unlicensed taxi services through apps.
It is unclear if such moves will impact taxi-hailing apps and they appear to be more for state-regulated taxis rather than premium services.
Hailo CEO Tom Barr has even said that authorities in Asia “see more importance in how the taxi industry supports the citizenry”, resulting in “a friendlier environment to grow in”.
As such, these companies are undeterred and are hoping that through these apps they can encourage more people to use their online payment systems.
Last year, Tencent was one of the investors in a $100 million funding round for Didi Taxi, a Chinese cab reservation app which enables passengers to pay for their rides using the internet giant’s Weixin payments service which if offered via the messaging app of the same name.
Baidu bought an undisclosed stake in Uber, which has been launching its services around Asia, including in Beijing and Shanghai, and was valued at around $40 billion in its latest $1.2 billion funding round.
Similar to Tencent, the move fits with Baidu’s efforts to promote its mobile payment system and could also boost the Chinese company’s traffic and location-based services.