Yidao Yongche car service now on 4 continents
Updated: 2015-08-21 10:54
By Li Jing in New York(China Daily USA)
It started with Zhou Hang's frustration with waiting in long queues for taxis at Shanghai's airport.
Now, Yidao Yongche, China's version of the Uber car service, is in three cities in the United States - San Francisco, New York and Phoenix - 21 other cities on three continents, including London, Sydney and Tokyo, and 74 cities in China.
The Beijing-based company is one of a growing number of car services worldwide emulating the success of San Francisco-based Uber.
But Zhou, Yidao Yongche's founder and CEO, he wants to prove that his company isn't copying Uber, but is "a match-up of two different business models".
Zhou said he had never heard of Uber when he started his company in 2010, and that his idea for Yidao Yongche came from those waits at Shanghai's airport.
Though Uber may not have been on his mind then, recent media reports say Yidao Yongche may merge with Uber, reports that Zhou himself has helped to spark. Neither company has commented publicly on a possible merger.
Founded in 2010, Yidao Yongche means "easy arrival" in Chinese. It started as a car rental website, and shifted to mobile phones as location-based technology went mainstream.
The company said that now most of its customers come from its smart-phone app, and half of its ride requests are made in real-time.
"The beauty of the Internet is that it allows everybody to enjoy a better life. I know it's a Utopian vision to share as much resources as possible, but it's totally worth a shot. I believe the sharing economy is the next big thing, " Zhou told Bloomberg News.
In the US market, the company is betting on the growing number of Chinese tourists. China is the second-largest outbound travel market for the US. More than 2.18 million Chinese people visited the US in 2014, and the number is expected to double to over 4 million by 2020, according to US National Travel and Tourism Office.
Yidao Yongche matches Chinese-speaking drivers with Chinese travelers in the US, who might otherwise have a language barrier with local American drivers.
"Most Chinese don't speak English and find it difficult to communicate with foreign drivers after they land in another country," Zhou said. "We have Chinese-speaking drivers in the US and other places to make it seamless and stress-free."
It also provides the airport pickup service to customers who book international air tickets through Ctrip.com, China's biggest online travel provider and one of its investors.
Zhou said Yidao Yongche offers customized services, with different car model options for users and for those who don't have smartphones; the app allows for others to pay for the booking through their own accounts.
In the US, Zhou plans to expand to cities like Los Angeles and Boston, two places popular with Chinese travelers.
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