Hot on the heels of China's largest taxi hailing service, Didi Dache, comes the Didi bus service. Provided by the same service provider, Beijing Xiaoju Technology, the service was officially launched on July 16. During the first week of operation, users only need to pay the promotional price of 0.1 yuan ($0.02) to use this service through their WeChat account.
The Didi bus service offers a one way ticket between seven and 13 yuan, covering 33 routes in areas such as Zhongguancun, Shangdi, the CBD and Tongzhou. The buses used for this service mostly belong to local bus or travel companies that own licensed buses for operation.
Although it was launched just a few days ago and with ticket prices three-to-five times more than an ordinary bus, this service has seen a high popularity with tens of thousands of users making it their commuting method of choice between their offices and homes. For now, the Didi bus service is only available in Beijing and Shenzhen, Guangdong Province.
Li Jingfei, the general manager of Beijing Xiaoju Technology's bus department, said that the Didi bus service is a good supplement to the current public bus transport service. "We expect to serve hundreds of millions of people with improved and customized transport services in the future," Li was quoted as saying in the Beijing Youth Daily on July 17.
To use the Didi Dache services such as Kuaiche and Shunfengche, users only need to download either the Didi Dache app or WeChat on their mobile phone and create an account. After enabling the application to find their location, they can choose their destination and place their order. It normally takes only a few minutes for a car nearby to pick customers up. Kuaiche, another popular service of Didi Dache, does not charge a minimum tariff, only charging passengers 1.5 yuan per kilometer. This low pricing option, together with a one-to-three yuan coupon that Didi Dache offers passengers, makes the service very competitive compared to the traditional taxi service, which charges a 13 yuan minimum tariff and 2.3 yuan per kilometer.
Didi Dache claim that their service has not only alleviated the pressure on public transport and benefited the general public in their daily transport needs, but also revolutionized the traditional transport industry. But the service has courted a fair amount of controversy. According to a Xinhua News report on June 3, government authorities, including the Beijing Municipal Transportation Bureau and Beijing Transport Law Enforcement General Team, called a meeting with Didi Dache, to point out that the company's recruitment of private car owners for transport services violates current transport regulations, since private vehicles are not licensed to provide public transport services.
Despite the pressure from authorities, Liu Qing, the president of Beijing Xiaoju Technology, is optimistic. "Although there are conflicting voices before the launch of a new reform, history will repeat itself, just like when private restaurants gradually replaced state-owned canteens [decades ago]," said Liu.
Meanwhile, many fear that Didi Dache's cheap promotions are an extreme way for the company to expand its market and therefore not sustainable.
There is a general belief that once the billion yuan financing that the company received from investors runs out, the coupons for drivers and passengers will disappear as well. But until then, more and more people have fallen in love with the service on demand.