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Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing (Didi) has officially launched its taxi-hailing business in Japan as part of a previously announced joint venture with SoftBank.

Didi, for the uninitiated, emerged back in 2015 following a merger between local Chinese rivals Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache, and the combined entity is now the market leader in China by some distance, powered by a series of gargantuan funding rounds.

Much like Uber, Didi offers smartphone-based car services — such as carpooling, taxis, and premium cars with drivers — but the company’s inaugural Japan launch won’t include ride-sharing, as the service is illegal in Japan. Earlier today, SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son slammed the Japanese government for banning ride-sharing, calling his country “stupid.”

The new joint venture, which will be called Didi Mobility Japan Corp., is expected to produce its first fruits this coming fall with the launch of a consumer ride-hailing app in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Fukuoka, among other major cities. Additionally, Didi users from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, and Taiwan will be able to use their existing app to hail taxis in their native language while in Japan.

Related to this new venture, Didi said it also plans to introduce Chinese-to-Japanese translations within its mobile app in China, allowing Japanese travelers to converse with local drivers in real time through instant messaging.

Going global

Unlike Uber, which has pursued an aggressive global roadmap for years, Didi has taken a more cautious approach to international expansion, biding its time before looking too far outside its native China. A few months back, however, Didi launched its first real own-brand service outside of China, kicking off in Mexico, an Uber stronghold. Last month, Didi further expanded to Australia.

Elsewhere, Didi also recently acquired Brazil’s 99, and Didi has expanded into Taiwan via a franchise model targeting local taxi drivers, as well as investing in Careem to gain clout in the EMEA region.

Although Uber is still the global leader in the e-taxi realm in terms of reach, its trajectory seems to be moving in the opposite direction from that of Didi. Indeed, Uber sold its Chinese arm to Didi in a $35 billion deal back in 2016, which was followed by Uber’s merger with in Eastern Europe last year. Back in March, Uber elected to merge its operations with Grab in Southeast Asia, while rumors abound that the San Francisco-based company is mulling a deal with Careem in the Middle East.

As consolidation engulfs the ride-hailing industry, all signs seem to point to a future dominated by just a handful of e-taxi companies.


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