China's 'Uber' plans to be in NYC, San Francisco
Updated: 2014-06-18 07:11
By JACK FREIFELDER in New York (China Daily USA)
China's version of Uber, the web-based minicab service, is planning to go after Chinese customers, especially travelers, in New York and San Francisco with Mandarin-speaking drivers.
Yongche.com — China's largest mobile-phone car-sharing service with a fleet of close to 50,000 vehicles and more than 2 million active users — plans to expand service from 57 cities to 150 by 2015, Zhou Hang, CEO and founder, told Bloomberg News. And New York City and San Francisco will be part of that expansion, he said.
Yongche will help set itself apart in the US market and elsewhere by providing Mandarin-speaking drivers for Chinese travelers, said Zhou.
"Most Chinese don't speak English and find it difficult to communicate with foreign drivers after they land in another country," Zhou said in the Bloomberg story published on June 12. "We will have Chinese-speaking drivers in the US and other places to make it seamless and stress-free."
Vishwas Shankar, a senior consultant with global consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, said Yongche's decision to provide service in New York and California is "well justified" given the large Chinese-American populations in the two cities.
"It is estimated that there could be more than 700 carpooling/ridesharing companies globally," Shankar wrote Tuesday in an email to China Daily. "It was only a matter of time before companies like Yongche aimed to compete … in markets like the US."
Shankar also said the decision to offer services in Mandarin is a part of Yongche's "unique brand-building exercise".
"It will be one of the niche attraction points … aimed at attaining the [Mandarin-speaking] customers," he said.
Yongche, founded in 2010 as the first domestic e-commerce platform in China for car reservation services, provides customers with multiple rental options and a variety of chauffeured services through its website and mobile application.
In December, the Beijing-based Yongche announced $60 million in funding from a pair of Chinese partners, venture capital firm DCM and international online travel company Ctrip.
Zhou said his company would promote its services to customers who book their travel through Ctrip.
"Yongche is no doubt a top player in China and its product is well-tailored to Chinese consumers," Danny Yang, a Beijing-based analyst with Internet research iResearch Consulting Group, said last week in an interview with Bloomberg. "They may face hurdles overseas, including adjusting to different regulations and opposition from traditional taxi operators."
The main competition for Yongche will be San Francisco-based Uber Technologies Inc.
It has been estimated that Uber's mobile platform, which is available to 137 million Americans, per company data, has the potential to generate upward of $2 billion a year for the US economy, according to ECONorthwest, an economic, public policy, and litigation consulting firm based in the US' Pacific Northwest.
Uber, which was founded in 2009, operates a similar for-hire vehicle (FHV) business in more than 35 countries and close to 130 cities worldwide — a list that includes several Chinese cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
"We want to prove to the world that the competition between Uber and Yongche.com isn't that of between a global and local company, but a match-up of two different business models," he told Bloomberg. "Our business model comes with bigger potential than Uber as we provide more customized services."
After New York and San Francisco, Zhou said he would consider other major cities for Chinese travelers, a group that includes: Boston, Frankfurt, London, Los Angeles and Tokyo.
A spokesman with the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission (NYC TLC), who asked not to be identified by name, said Yongche has not made contact with the agency regarding licensing for its vehicles.
Bonnie Wong contributed to this story