In a wave of entrepreneurship in the early 2010s, in which every industry was to be transformed through the deployment of technology, Uber and Lyft were born.
The two companies are a product of the terrible taxicab ecosystem which existed in California before 2010. People could order cabs over the phone or on the internet, but operators would dispatch them based on their position in the queue, meaning someone could be waiting an hour for the cab to arrive from the other side of town. And if the cab saw a fare on the street, they were under no obligation to complete the booked ride.
In Uber’s case especially, the app was designed to make ordering a taxi far more reliable. Lyft retuned its service a bit later to compete against Uber, it was originally conceived as a long-distance carpooling service.
In China, Cheng Wei was formulating a similar idea, after spending several years working in Alibaba’s payments division. Recognising the opportunity to build a secure payments system for taxi drivers, he launched Didi Dache. Cheng Wen and Joe Lee would launch a similar service in Hangzhou, called Kuaidi Dache.
Uber, driven by its then CEO Travis Kalanick, quickly expanded to Europe and Asia. Funded by a collective of venture capitalists eager to see ride hailing become the next big technology sector, Uber gleefully spent billions every year to compete in almost every market.
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This reached its peak in 2015, when Uber announced it was spending $1 billion ever year to compete in China. As the threat of Uber China grew, Didi and Kuaidi, backed by Tencent and Alibaba respectively, merged. At the time, Didi and Kuaidi were incredibly competitive, both reaching about 150 million users.
The combined force was too large for Uber to fight, and the company bowed out of the country in 2016, selling its Chinese division to Didi for $35 billion and 17 percent of Didi Kuaidi, which has since been diluted to under 15 percent.
Even with the loss of China, Uber remained the largest ride hailing platform on the planet. Didi would scoop up several smaller operators, and is today responsible for over 95 percent of all mobile taxi operations in China.
As competition in China settled, Uber began expanding its network in India, which was considered by Kalanick another key battleground. Ola Cabs, possibly following Didi’s example, had acquired rival TaxiForSure for $200 million in 2015, forming a combined company that could challenge Uber.
Instead of folding to the pressure, Uber has continued to grow in India. While Ola is still ahead according to most sources, Uber believes it has reached 50 percent market share in the country in 2019, which could pay dividends in the next few years as millions of drivers and riders shift to mobile applications.
In Europe, Uber has held a respectable lead in most countries, although it has had to fight regulators in France, Germany, Hungary and the UK. New operators, such as Free Now and Bolt, are challenging Uber’s supremacy in the region, while Cabify and Didi are competing heavily in the South American market.
We expect Europe will be one of the key battlegrounds for Uber in the next five years, as Bolt, Free Now, Gett and Ola compete in the major cities. Uber has reportedly looked into acquiring Free Now, owned by BMW and Daimler, for north of $1 billion. It also recently acquired Careem, a ride hailing operator in the Middle East, for $3.1 billion.
Another competitive region to take note of is South-east Asia, in which Uber, Grab and Go-Jek are all active. Grab and Go-Jek are both considered “super apps”, as both provide multiple services through their rider network, similar to how Uber utilises its network to deliver food and rent bikes. SoftBank, which owns shares in both Grab and Go-Jek, is pushing for a merger of both operators, to strengthen them through the pandemic.
In less than a decade, ride hailing has established itself as a major industry, and one which operators have used to as a framework for other transportation opportunities, such as food delivery, freight shipping and self-driving.
The only serious hiccup, which affected both Uber and Didi, has been driver safety. For Uber, this came in the form of several sexual harassment claims against Uber executives in 2017 and 2018, which then spread to stories about Uber not properly dealing with harassment claims by female riders. Similar accusations were published in China in 2018, after two women were killed by their Didi’s Hitch drivers, leading to a suspension of the service.
In both cases, Uber and Didi have reshuffled their internal teams and added safety features and systems to report drivers. Kalanick, seen as a ringleader for the culture that allowed sexual harassment accusations to go unchecked, was replaced as CEO and left the board soon after. Didi hired thousands of Communist Party members as drivers and safety team representatives and reportedly spent $1.61 billion on enhanced safety features.
The coronavirus pandemic has been detrimental to ride hailing operators, in some countries there has been a 90 percent downturn in usage. China, which is reportedly down to less than 20 positive cases a day, returned to normal levels by June, however European and North American usage remains lower.
While Uber and other operators have added additional health measures, in countries with lockdown measures or nightlife preventions, the need for a taxi has diminished. Thankfully for Uber, Grab and Go-Jek, other operations such as food delivery have seen remarkable growth during the pandemic.
Top Taxi Apps
|Uber||The undisputed leader in ride hailing, operates in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia|
|Lyft||Uber’s competitor in North America, responsible for about 25 percent of US ride hailing|
|DiDi||After merging and acquiring all competitors, Didi Chuxing is the lone operator in China|
|Ola||India’s competitor to Uber, responsible for about 50 percent of all rides in the country|
|Grab||Singaporean transportation giant Grab operates a ride hailing service in Southeast Asia|
|Bolt||Estonian operator currently active in 35 countries in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East|
|Free Now||Free Now is the amalgamation of several ride hailing services, owned by Daimler and BMW|
|Cabify||Lead operator in South America and also active in Spain and Portugal|
|Gojek||The other operator in Southeast Asia. May be merging with Grab Taxi in near future|
|Gett||Gett pulls from the pool of licensed cab drivers in the UK, Israel and Russia|
US Taxi App Market
Uber pioneered the ride hailing model, which operated for the first few years in major US cities. Lyft has managed to carve out a respectable second place in the country. Both aim to lower costs through the introduction of self-driving vehicles, at some point in the future.
US Taxi App Revenue
|Year||US Taxi App Revenue|
During the pandemic, Uber and Lyft both experienced a 90 percent drop in rides. Even though some states have reopened, others remain in some form of lockdown and fewer people are travelling via taxi than before.
US Taxi App Users
|Year||US Taxi App Users|
Users have steadily risen in the US, with the majority of growth coming from the millions of people in cities switching from hailing a cab in the street to booking it through Uber or Lyft.
Note: Users include people who hail taxis or book them via phone.
US Taxi App Market Share
Sources: Business Insider, Second Measure, Statista
Uber and Lyft have been stuck in a two horse race for the better part of a decade, in which Uber has always held a convincing lead over its rival. Uber expanded quicker and remains far ahead of Lyft in terms of broad availability, although Lyft gained some ground in 2018, in the midst of the #CancelUber trend.
UK Taxi App Market
Apart from the black cabs in London, the UK had a more prominent ride hailing market before the introduction of Uber. However, Uber has taken over most large cities in the UK, while London has become one of the most competitive markets in the world, with Bolt, Ola, Free Now and Uber all competing for market share.
UK Taxi App Revenue
|Year||UK Taxi App Revenue|
As with the US, the UK noted a sizeable reduction in taxi usage since the national lockdown in March. With a second lockdown starting in November, we expect revenue to remain far lower than 2019.
UK Taxi App Users
|Year||UK Taxi App Users|
Uber controls the ride hailing market, although lots of local operators have launched apps to better compete. Uber acquired Autocab earlier this year, which provides it with the means to expand to smaller UK towns.
Note: Users include people who hail taxis or book them via phone.
UK Taxi App Market Share
Sources: Transport for London, Uber. Figures are for London only.
Compared to the rest of the UK, London is a far more competitive market, as Bolt, Free Now and Ola are all fighting to take Uber’s place as leader of the largest market in Europe.
Uber recently received the all clear to continue operating in London, after a 2019 decision by Transport for London to suspend its license. Ola had the same termination of license delivered to them in October, although it will appeal the decision and continue operating in the interim.
Europe Taxi App Market
Local regulations and taxi unions have prevented Uber from total European market share control. This has allowed European alternatives to grow, like Estonia’s Bolt, Germany’s Free Now and Spain’s Cabify.
Europe Taxi App Revenue
|Year||Europe Taxi App Revenue|
Compared to the US, Europe has seen its ride hailing ecosystem grow more rapidly in the past few years, as applications such as Free Now and Bolt have started to come online in all major European cities. Similar to the US, European revenue has been dampened by the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit some regions hard.
Europe Ride Hailing Users
|Year||Europe Taxi App Users|
Due to the variety of applications on offer, in major European cities people can choose between five taxi providers (Uber, Gett, Bolt, Free Now, Ola), there are far more potential active users, although there may be some crossover.
Note: Users include people who hail taxis or book them via phone.
Europe Taxi App Market Share
Sources: Statista, TSci-Research, Yelowsoft
While Uber is banned or does not operate in some European countries – Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Hungary – it still holds a commanding lead in Europe. In a recent press release, it said it has 65 percent market share in the region.
That said, Uber is not without competition in many of these countries. Bolt has emerged as a potential contender, with a strong presence in Eastern Europe and growing appreciation in London. Free Now operates in Germany and Uber may be attempting to acquire it for $1 billion, as a way into the country.
China Taxi App Market
China’s ride hailing market is far ahead of all other regions in revenue and users, as Didi has become the first and only way for millions of people in China’s tier one and tier two cities to travel.
China Taxi App Revenue
|Year||China Taxi App Revenue|
Revenue for 2020 is expected to be lower than 2019, due to the coronavirus pandemic, although not as drastic as the US and UK. Didi announced in June that operations were back up to pre-pandemic levels, we assume this has remained the case throughout the year.
China Taxi App Users
|Year||China Taxi App Users|
China’s user numbers are far ahead of any other country, due to the large amount of taxi drivers that have transitioned to Didi. Compared to the US and EU, where there is still rides to be had outside the ride hailing app ecosystem, in China, less and less people are willing to hail a taxi in the street or book a taxi by phone.
This could be seen clearly when Didi received a curfew, in which it had to stop operations in major cities by midnight. Instead of an uptick in taxis booked, millions of late night workers in Shenzhen and Shanghai either ended work earlier or walked home.
China Taxi App Market Share
Since the 2016 acquisition of Uber China by Didi Chuxing, the ride hailing operator has been the sole provider of service for 95 percent of ride hailing users. It is unlikely that Alibaba or Tencent will fund a competitor, as they are both heavily invested in Didi. We expect Didi will go public in the next few years.
India Taxi App Market
India’s ride hailing market is in a two horse race, with Uber and Ola Cabs battling it out for market share. In comparison to China and the US, most of the main cities still primarily use taxis and other non-mobile services.
India Taxi App Revenue
|Year||India Taxi App Revenue|
In comparison to the US, India has been hard pressed to find revenue from its massive userbase. Most of the taxi industry remains off-the-books, Uber had to implement cash payments to gain marketshare against Ola Cabs.
India Taxi App Users
|Year||India Taxi App Users|
While not as large as China, India is rapidly gaining traction, as more of the populace come online. In major cities, Ola and Uber are becoming commonplace, while still unavailable to large parts of the country.
India Taxi App Market Share
Sources: Ola Cabs, Uber
Similar to the US, India is a two horse race, but this time Uber is the one scrapping for first place. It has risen from less than 10 percent in 2015 to almost level with Ola, the Indian homegrown operator, which acquired several competitors over the years to be better equipped taking on Uber.
Global Taxi App Market
In this section, we take a look at the taxi app market on a global scale, comparing the various national and international platforms on revenue and valuations. We also look at global funding and the projected value of this industry over the next seven years.
Global Taxi App Funding
|Year||Taxi App Funding|
Funding for ride hailing services peaked in 2017, as Uber and Didi both ran giant funding rounds. Didi received $7.3 billion in funding in 2017, which may be considered overkill as it had already acquired Uber China. Uber and Lyft’s IPO marked a turning point for the sector, transitioning from large funding rounds to the public stock market.
Global Taxi App Valuations ($bn)
Didi and Uber are far ahead of the pack, as expected. Uber leads in several key markets, while Didi is responsible for 95 percent of ride hailing in China.
Grab and Go-Jek are both competing in South-east Asia, and their high valuations may be due to expansive network of services both provide, which include food delivery.
Western operators, such as Lyft, Cabify and Gett, have not broadened their operations in the same way.
Global Taxi App Projected Value
|Year||Taxi App Projected Value|
The global value of ride hailing took a hit in 2020, as the need for taxis plummeted across the world. Uber, Didi, Grab and Go-Jek have all attempted to recoup losses through food delivery and other services which are needed right now.
We expect in 2021 ride hailing to start its upward trend, possibly even faster as before as we come out of a lockdown and people change their transportation behaviours. In the next five years, it’s expected more people in major cities will ditch cars for shared mobility services, while ride hailing apps will continue to penetrate deeper into towns across the globe.