A taxi-hailing app war is about to erupt in Hong Kong.
Uber, a United States vehicle-hiring and taxi company, is firing the first volley with a “free ride day” Wednesday.
It’s throwing down the gauntlet at Kuaidi, the largest taxi-hailing app in Hong Kong and mainland China.
The impending war makes last month’s pullout of Brazil’s Easy Taxi from Hong Kong seem like years ago.
Uber is offering two discount taxi rides worth HK$200 (US$26) each through UberTAXI. Trips costing less are free.
The discount is generous compared with the prices of its competitors.
However, the free ride does not include its high-end UberBLACK and UberVAN services.
Hong Kong used to have 10 taxi-hailing operators but competition decimated the field, with Easy Taxi, Chok Taxi and Taxi Hero — both local apps –falling by the wayside one after another.
They were victims of imprecise GPS navigation and a not-so-user-friendly app design.
Besides Uber and Kuaidi, there are only three other incumbents in Hong Kong — HK Taxi, Fly Taxi and Fast Taxi, all domestic start-ups.
Backed by Alibaba, Kuaidi made its foray into Hong Kong in September and quickly went on to dominate the market.
The group offered subsidies to passengers in the form of cash rebates and coupons. Kuaidi complemented the campaign with a series of promotional events.
In December, it rolled out deeper rebates — up to HK$60 per ride — to attract first-time users.
Also, it began a recruitment campaign on Facebook for 200 promoters at an hourly rate of HK$100.
With more than 18,000 registered taxi drivers and 20,000 average daily orders, the group has no real competitor in Hong Kong, according to Ng Shu-kei, head of Kuaidi’s local operation.
Uber could change that.
Never mind who wins in the end. What’s clear is that passengers can’t wait to make the most out of this war.
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