China’s DiDi Chuxing has made another big move in the global ride-hailing market, by partnering with Middle Eastern brand Careem. The Dubai-based firm claims to be present in 80 Middle Eastern cities, with 12 million customers on board. DiDi did not disclose the amount it has invested.
2012-founded Careem is the latest in a line of smaller, regional ride-hail companies to be backed by major players, in what is fast becoming a global game of Risk for one of tech’s most lucrative sectors. Last month Beijing’s DiDi, alongside SoftBank’s Vision Fund, ploughed $2bn into Grab, the largest ride-hailing app in Southeast Asia. DiDi has already made significant investments in Uber rivals Lyft and Ola.
The Careem move is another significant step in what DiDi will hope is a franchised breakdown of Uber’s market dominance–which is being exacerbated by a lack of top-level leadership following Travis Kalanick’s controversial departure in May. DiDi’s “global framework of collaboration now extends to over 60% of the world’s population across 1,000 cities in North America, Southeast Asia, South Asia and South America,” said a company statement today.
DiDi itself bought Uber’s China division in August 2016, in return for Uber acquiring a 17.7% stake in its own Chinese counterpart. That complex web of interests has spurred a proxy war for control of ride-hailing’s smaller, but fast-developing, global markets. Uber has already conceded defeat in Russia to Yandex.Taxi, while DiDi has invested in Brazil’s 99, and Taxify, which operates in Eastern Europe and South Africa.
Careem’s popularity in Saudi Arabia has caused much interest across the globe, for having sparked some major social changes. Women are still not allowed to drive in the Kingdom. Therefore the ability to take non-chauffeured lifts for a fraction of the cost will help more women join the workforce: with oil prices slumping, Saudi’s leadership wants to increase female employment from 23% to 28% by 2022.
Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund invested $3.5bn in Uber in June 2016–and has bought 10% of Careem for $100m. It hopes that ride-hailing will help boost its workforce by 70,000 by the end of this year.