Recently, the taxi service “Maxim” complained about unfair competition from the Chinese aggregator DiDi, which allegedly overly subsidized trips and drivers in the regions (see Kommersant, June 4). Meanwhile, subsidizing drivers is a common practice for a new player in this market: first, the aggregator pays extra to taxi drivers in order to connect as many of them as possible and recruit a base of loyal passengers, and having achieved this, it stops dumping.
So did Yandex, whose price war with Uber ended in 2018 with the merger of their business in Russia. In this practice, Citymobil was also noticed, whose rapid growth on the investments of Mail.ru Group and Sberbank a little ruffled the nerves of Yandex.Taxi. True, the threat quickly faded away: capturing market leadership requires endless cash infusions, which Mail.ru Group did not accept.
But DiDi’s entry into the Russian market, which took place almost a year ago, turned out to be too inconvenient for domestic companies. The Chinese Varangian with a bottomless pocket chose an offensive strategy from afar, staying outside Moscow, and hence the radars of the federal authorities. In Kazan, the service offered free trips in general.
Of course, passengers are pleased with the situation. But this story will have a pretty quick end, and here’s why. Although discounts and additional payments to drivers are considered traditional tools of aggregators’ competitive struggle, domestic companies are worried about the level of aggression with which DiDi began to use them. At the same time, Yandex and Citymobil are more than satisfied with their current status quo for two reasons: it does not require subsidies commensurate with DiDi for passengers and drivers and does not attract undue attention from regulators. However, it seems that the anti-monopoly authorities themselves do not really want to invade this market: it is rather difficult to assess it.
As a result, my interlocutors in the industry believe, with the arrival of the Chinese, there will be no one else left on the scorched earth, and then the monopolist DiDi will raise prices, and against this background, the “bombils” will again raise their heads.
However, fortunately for the largest aggregators, there are already calls from the State Duma and the government to regulate the Chinese and help “their own”. It is unlikely that with such support, DiDi will squeeze out any of its major competitors from the market. Rather, the Chinese aggregator will have to follow the example of Uber, that is, team up with a domestic partner, or fit into the context, cutting subsidies to drivers to a decent size in this market. That is, a Russian who is steadily losing income in the regions will not be happy for a long time with a new aggregator, which carries himself at a loss.