E-hailing firm DiDi seeks drivers, readies low-cost service

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 07 May 2021

Chinese-based ride-hailing service DiDi Chuxing is on a partner driver recruitment drive and is preparing to introduce its low-cost service locally, when it expands to Cape Town later this month.

The Uber and Bolt competitor, backed by Softbank, started piloting its service in Gqeberha, Eastern Cape, last month, and will officially launch its low-cost DiDi Go service when it opens new operations in Cape Town on 17 May.

Founded in 2012, DiDi Chuxing is a Chinese vehicle-for-hire company headquartered in Beijing, with over 600 million users and tens of millions of drivers.

The South African expansion marks the e-hailing company’s first presence in Africa and the 17th active country globally.

After analysing the needs and preferences of riders in Cape Town, the e-hailing company says it decided to launch three services on the platform: DiDi Go, the low-cost alternative for price-sensitive riders; DiDi Express, the standard service for those seeking a balance between price and comfort; and DiDi XL, for those who need more space, with a capacity of up to seven seats.

DiDi Express is charged at a base fare of R15 and a distance rate of R10 per kilometre. The service will compete with Uber’s normal price, which starts from R7.50/km, and Bolt’s normal price, which starts from R6.00/km.

While DiDi says its low-cost service pricing will only be revealed on the day before the launch date(16 May), the e-hailing service assures customers that the service will “bring the best value for money to the city of Cape Town”.

In addition, it will host ‘DiDi Days’ on certain days of the week, when users can enjoy bigger discounts on trips.

“We are proud to confirm our launch in Cape Town on 17 May. The pandemic has posed a huge challenge on users who need to get around, on entrepreneurs, and even on government. We firmly believe our service will make a difference; that’s why it is the ideal time to launch in Cape Town,” says Ken Liu, DiDi launch lead in South Africa.

“We’ve also learnt valuable lessons from our very successful pilot launch in Gqeberha, which we used to improve our proposal for Cape Town users and drivers. As such, we decided it was essential to launch more options on our platform, which will allow us to be more accessible and better reach more users and entrepreneurs.”

Driver considerations

The e-hailing service is currently on a driver-recruitment drive in Cape Town and is offering drivers who sign up to the app zero commission payable during their first four weeks of using the platform, after which the service will take a 13% cut from drivers.

Drivers will receive a R250 sign-up bonus after they’ve completed 10 trips during the first week after the launch. They will also get a R300 bonus for every new driver they refer, which can add up to a total of R15 000 in referral bonuses, notes the company.

In terms of safety measures, DiDi says it’s of the view that mobility and entrepreneurship must be safe and reliable.

“Our wide range of safety features beneficial to users and driving partners include facial detection for riders and drivers, SOS buttons for riders and drivers linked to police, 24/7 safety response support with dispatchable safety patrols, preview information for riders and drivers, and safety training for drivers, among others,” says DiDi.

Uber and Bolt’s low-cost services led to several run-ins between the companies and their drivers, who say they hinder their earning potential, by offering riders discounts of up to 30%.

Last week, Uber drivers requested the e-hailing company to put its new UberGo low-cost service on hold, saying it’s a form of exploitation.

In July, thousands of Bolt drivers protested over the e-hailing company’s similar low-cost service shortly after it was introduced.