More rivals join hands to take on ride-hailing giant

A Saudi woman with the Careem app on her mobile phone. The Dubai-based ride-hailing service is partnering China's Yidao Yongche to expand its services.
A Saudi woman with the Careem app on her mobile phone. The Dubai-based ride-hailing service is partnering China's Yidao Yongche to expand its services.PHOTO: REUTERS

SAN FRANCISCO • Uber Technologies is facing another alliance of rivals as smaller operators team up across different regions for ride-hailing services.

Careem, a Dubai-based service that is valued at about US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion), will partner China's Yidao Yongche and share resources, according to a statement.

They will use London-based start-up Splyt Technologies to coordinate their fleets and payments so that passengers using one app can travel abroad to use the drivers from other services without downloading new software.

Uber has been able to build leadership in ride-hailing with a single app that customers can use to get a ride around the world.

Splyt is trying to negate that edge and chief executive officer Philipp Mintchin said his company's technology connects with partners to help clients see available cars when they land at a destination.

Splyt holds local bank accounts in regional currencies and makes its money by charging a commission on currency exchange.

Splyt's nascent effort resembles another recent alliance of much larger ride-sharing companies.

In late 2015, Didi, Lyft, South-east Asia's Grab and Ola of India forged a four-way partnership to take on Uber.

Uber's international expansion was last year dealt a blow when it sold its Chinese operation to Apple-backed Didi after spending billions of dollars to build its business in the country.

The Careem alliance comes as Yidao, which is associated with Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting, faces local media reports that it is struggling to pay suppliers. The company denied those claims in a statement and said its business is running smoothly and preparing for an initial public offering.

Splyt's Mr Mintchin said that around 3.5 million cars on seven services in the Middle East, China, South America, France, Poland, Belgium and Nigeria are currently linked by the platform. Partners in Russia and Japan are expected to come on board within the next six months.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2017, with the headline 'More rivals join hands to take on ride-hailing giant'. Print Edition | Subscribe