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War of the apps heats up in China

Publication Date : 21-02-2014

 

Raising a hand to flag down a taxi by the streets could be passé in China, or at least in the eyes of the taxi booking app developers.

Two popular mobile apps, Kuaidi Dache and Didi Dache (“dache” means taking the taxi), make it possible for passengers to hail a cab without flailing an arm, but just tapping on their smart phones.

The war between the two apps, which are backed by Chinese Internet giants Alibaba Group and Tencent Holdings Ltd respectively, has gotten more intense this week.

On Monday, Didi Dache announced that it was going to revive its 10-yuan (US$3.91) rebate programme for users who book a cab and pay via Tencent’s instant messaging app Wechat.

Every passenger is entitled to receive a subsidy of 10 yuan each trip, for up to three trips a day.

For taxi drivers in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hangzhou, a reward of 10 yuan awaits for up to 10 bookings they successfully respond to through Didi Dache.

Cabbies in other cities will receive 5 yuan for the first five trips and 10 yuan for the next five trips.

To prevent users from cheating, Didi Dache said it would block passengers and drivers who reach mutual agreements to use the app only after the passengers get into the cabs, with the motive of earning the rebates.

Didi Dache reportedly poured in 1 billion yuan for this round of subsidy.

Kuaidi Dache was quick to follow up with an “always-one-yuan-more” reward.

Users who hail a cab through its app and pay via Alibaba’s mobile payment service Alipay Wallet were promised that they would always enjoy one yuan more than users of its competitor.

It is not the first time these two apps are using these tactics to entice users.

In January, Didi Dache rolled out the 10-yuan rebate promotion, prompting Kuaidi Dache to offer the same rebate in response.

When Didi Dache reduced the 10-yuan incentive by half on Feb 10, Kuaidi Dache seized the chance to announce that it would retain the 10-yuan offer.

Now that Didi Dache has readjusted the rebate back to 10 yuan, Kuaidi Dache has decided to have the upper hand by pledging “always-one-yuan-more”.

However, just a day after these announcements were made, Didi Dache upped the rebate once again. Passengers would now receive between 12 yuan and 20 yuan per trip.

Kuaidi Dache followed suit to offer a subsidy of at least 13 yuan per trip.

While Didi Dache offered 10,000 free trips a day to lucky passengers, Kuaidi Dache pledged 15,000 free trips a day.

It appeared that there was no end to this intense price war.

This “war” between the two apps is only one segment of the fierce rivalry between the two Internet companies, Tencent and Alibaba.

Tencent owns Wechat while Alibaba has developed a similar app known as “Laiwang”.

Alibaba bought 18% stake of the popular Twitter-like service Sina Weibo last year, which is the contender of Tencent’s Wechat.

Last week, Alibaba offered to purchase mobile mapping app AutoNavi. Tencent, meanwhile, already has a mapping service that boasts a similar function to Google’s Street View.

This latest contest in the taxi-booking app was seen as a tactic to encourage smart phone users to adopt the habit of using mobile payments.

During the just-concluded Chinese New Year holiday, Wechat users went gaga over the electronic angpao.

They had to first link their bank accounts to Wechat before they could give or receive money among their circle of friends.

According to Beijing Times, from the eve until the eighth day of Chinese New Year, more than 40 million angpao were handed out in the activity participated by more than eight million people.

Even Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma described the phenomenon as a “Pearl Harbour attack”.

In a poll on finance.ifeng.com, 70.42% of some 5,600 respondents felt that the war of taxi booking apps between Tencent and Alibaba was not a vicious competition.

Almost half of them believed that what mattered most at the end of the day was the product experience.

They were of the opinion that the company with the better service would prevail, in contrast to only 23.38% of the respondents who predicted that the one with bigger financial capability would eventually be declared the winner.

With the two giants locking horns and trying to outdo each other, many believed that the consumers are the biggest beneficiaries.

The rebates did not have a reported deadline. Until the cash rewards are withdrawn, users can continue to enjoy the subsidies to save some pennies.

*US$1 = 6.08 yuan

 

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