Business / Gadgets

Riders and drivers hail the new era of taxi booking apps

By He Wei (China Daily) Updated: 2014-02-14 07:18

Riders and drivers hail the new era of taxi booking apps

Taxi drivers register a car-hailing app at a developer's office in Shanghai. Taxi apps have become popular in major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, where the number of taxis isn't keeping up with demand. Liu Xingzhe / for China Daily

Getting a cab on the street may soon be just a memory. That's the promise of a new wave of mobile apps, reports He Wei in Shanghai

Getting a taxi in Shanghai's central business district is a matter of luck for Chen Zhuo, especially during rush hour. But now, an "invisible hand" is helping her - an account on Kuaidi Dache (loosely translated as Fast Taxi, Catch a Cab), an on-demand taxi-hailing app.

Chen's order for a taxi is quickly sent to hundreds of available cabs in the area. Instead of shivering in the wind, she can wait inside where it's warm and receive a call from a nearby driver who is scheduled to pick her up in less than five minutes.

Both passengers and taxi drivers already have an incentive to use Kuaidi to save time and money for both sides. Now there's a more explicit lure: cash rebates.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd has just invested 500 million yuan ($82.4 million) in the app's developer, Hangzhou-based Kuaizhi Technology Co Ltd.

Drivers get 15 yuan per ride by using the app, while customers get 10 yuan for using Alipay Wallet for the fare.

As Alibaba's third-party payment platform, Alipay is eager to duplicate its dominance of personal computers on the mobile front. The alignment with Kuaidi is a gateway to get China's smartphone users hooked on online-to-offline payments, said Mo Daiqing, an analyst at the China E-commerce Research Center.

"Whoever invests in such applications will gain easy access to the huge number of users and get them into paying for anything with a phone," said Mo. "It has strategic importance for companies pushing ahead with mobile commerce."

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