Uber’s epic battle with Didi Kuaidi in Chinese ride hailing market

Taxi hailing service in China: Uber and Didi Kuaidi

 

Uber has conquered the world in ride hailing service but it has to still conquer Chinese ride hailing market where it faces stiff competition from its rival Didi Kuaidi. We have already discussed in detail Uber’s car aggregation business and its attempt to set high standards in personal transportation market in my previous blog Uber in tough business of Car Aggregation. Uber has Baidu has its investor while Didi Kuaidi has Alibaba and Tencent as its investor and this make this battle more fierce. The main reason for such a battle is the presence of very large commuter market in China consisting twice the total US population and an anticipated influx of 100 million people in China’s middle class. Recent days have also seen incessant inflow of cash to these two start-ups reinforcing investors readiness to bet on world’s largest transport market and thus spend heavily for subsidising car rides to in gain market share.

In this race, Didi Kuadi seems to racing ahead of Uber due to several factors like Didi’s presence in 80 cities compared to Uber’s presence in 16 cities, Uber’s fund raising of $1.2 Billion for the Chinese market along with Didi Kuadi’s latest $3 Billion fundraising (mainly from Tencent, Alibaba, Temasek Holdings, Coatue Management, Pingan Ventures, Capital International Private Equity Funds’ (CIPEF), China Investment Corporation).  Further Didi is much larger organization with 4000 employees (excluding drivers) compared to only 200 employees of Uber in China. Also, Didi Kuaidi has a near monopoly in China’s car hailing market with a total 80% market share in China’s car hailing market.
Expansion in China was not very smooth for Uber as Uber has there have been some news of Uber’s office being raided by Chinese police. Further, there was some news of Uber’s drivers getting arrested for illegal use of vehicles. Uber is also facing difficulty over their blockage on WeChat, China’s hugely popular mobile messaging platform and run by Tencent. Uber’s accounts on WeChat have all been shut off including its official account and search results in WeChat have started hiding Uber results from users.
Uber has taken many steps to catch up with its rival. Uber has created a totally separate entity named UberChina for its expansion in China. This may help Uber with respect to local Chinese government as creation of local entity will provide a sense of being local and Chinese to the ride hailing service. Uber has also got investment form Baidu and this collaboration with Chinese search and mapping giant will help in more accurate mapping and increased range of services. Further, this collaboration will help Uber in achieving a major goal in terms of building an excellent local partner.
Further, Uber’s recent $1.2 Billion fundraise is expected to continue with some additional funds yet to be raised in days to come. Also, Uber is planning to enter 100 more cities over the next year, doubling a goal set 3 months ago. Uber is also planning to launch major promotional campaign and get more and more drivers into its ambit by offering large bonuses to drivers.


But, Uber is still behind its Chinese competitor in car hailing space and it will be interesting to see if Uber is able to succeed in Chinese market as Chinese government has always a tendency to prefer local players over foreign internet players as has been seen in cases like Google and Baidu, Weibo and Twitter, Alibaba and Amazon. In all of these cases Chinese companies have won over foreign companies. In case of Uber, time will tell if Uber is able to conquer the battle called China.

Paradox of Twitter’s stagnant user growth and increasing revenue

Recent stepping down of Dick Costolo as CEO of Twitter and Twitter co founder Jack Dorsey being made interim CEO has again put on front Twitter’s 3 main challenges namely stagnant user growth, user retention and disappointing advertisement revenue. The micro messaging platform has been plagued by slow adoption by users and its user growth has become stagnant in recent years. Further, Twitter is getting stiff competition from its rival such as Facebook, Line, WeChat, Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest. Twitter user growth chart, its revenue growth over the years and MAU growth chart can be seen as below:

 

1. Stalled user growth – Twitter had 302 MAUs in March 2015 and its growth has become a bit sluggish in recent quarters while its compettitor Facebook had around 1.4 billion MAUs in March 2015 and Facebook is still growing. Further, Twitter is facing stiff competition form its rival messaging and apps Facebook, Whatsapp, Line, Viber, Snapchat etc. Twitter grew from 255 MAUs in March 2014 to 302 MAUs is March 2015 while its rival Facebook increased its monthly active users from 1.276 Billion active users in March 2014 to 1.441 million active user in March 2015. Investors see MAUs as an indicator of growth and potential size of a platform and thus the lacklustre user growth despite continuous efforts from top management is a major cause of concern for Twitter.
 
2. Weak Ad Business – Ad business is continuously under pressure to sale more ads and ad sales are continuously failing to meet the forecast. Twitter’s quarterly revenue fell down from $479 million in Q4, 2014 to $436 million in Q1, 2015. The advertising revenue also fell down from $432 million USD in Q4, 2014 to $ 388 million USD in Q1, 2015. Last quarter, twitter reported weakest quarterly revenue growth and also missed revenue expectation for the market. This raises serious concern about twitter’s ability to generate revenue from sources like advertisements, data licensing etc.
 
3. Improving user experience – Twitter is said to be difficult to use for new users who are not used to short form of communication. Further, flood of content in twitter makes the platform scary for new users leading to very low retention rate. This can seen in that around 1 billion users have tried twitter sometimes but these users did not stuck around to twitter for long. Twitter needs to work on making navigation easier for new and existing users so as to provide compelling user experience to the suers. Thus, the main focus of twitter’s user acquisition strategy should be based on making easier onboarding of new users into twitter and retaining these users who are acquired.
 


Above mentioned challenges haver put immense pressure on Twitter’s product to make twitter more appealing to the users and more monetizable. This has led to accelerated pace of prodcut development in Twitter and thus Twitter has made slew of changes in its product so as to manage key challenges faced by it. Following are some of the key prodcut changes that twitter needs to include or has alsready included in its prodcut line.


1. Genre wise seperation of topic – Twitter may provide users ability to browse topic based on genre, area of interest for ex. News, Business, Sports, Tech, Music etc.


2. Save option to the user – A tweet gets lost in vast ocean of tweets and user sometimes is unbale to get back to tweet or a link he wanted to read/reply in future. User should be provided a save option to save his favourite tweets which he wants to read in future or reply back in future.

3. Search functionality – There should be a search functionality wherein a user should be able to search tweets he or she might have missed or could not have saved to be read in future. The recent twitter google deal will also help users get tweets as result in Google search result. Twitter should provide a funclitonlity to search tweets in Twitter itself instead of asking users to go to Google and search a tweet. Location based search or topic based search are other area where twitter can make search more relevant to users.
 
4. Better experience for New Users – Twitter needs to work upon making twitter better for new users who are not used to short form of communication and the flood of content that they have to face when they use twitter for first time. The main focus of twitter’s user acquisition strategy should be based on making easier onboarding of new users into twitter and providing
 
5. Easier navigation for user – Twitter needs to work on making navigation easier for new user and existing user so as to provide compelling user experience to the suers.
 
6. Video Streaming – Twitter has recently launched live streaming app Periscope in march 2015. Twitter also plans to allow users to shoot and edit videos without leaving the twitter app. It also plans to allow users group direct messages and provide new camera tools.
 
7. Online bullies and Trolls – Online trolls have long been problematic for Twitter leading to serious users leaving the platform. Twitter needs to solve this problem and simplify reporting of these bullies so that serious and loyal users do not leave the platform.
 
8. App Aggregation and monetization through services – Twitter needs to emulate business model being used by Wechat, Snapchat and Facebook wherein these apps offers some specialized apps and services to the their users. For example Snapchat offers Discover sections which consist of stories from different publishers. Similarly Facebook provides apps for messaging, consuming news and sharing photos. WeChat provides services like eCommerce, gaming, mobile payment etc. Periscope is an attempt in this line and Twitter can also follow this in order to monetize its services.
 
9. Make conversations easier to follow – Conversations around a tweet are difficult to follow especially if there are large number of replies in a tweet. Twitter is working on grouping conversations together and highlight most interesting exchange around a tweet just below the tweet.
 
10. Removal of 140 character restriction in Direct Message – Twitter has recently removed 140 character restrictions for Direct messages, which will provide much awaited solutions to users who wanted to get this restriction removed.
 
11. Revamped home page for logged out users – Twitter has revamped its home page to provide a better experience to its logged out users by allowing non logged in users to follow trending tweets. Further, Logged-out users visiting the homepage can now see a feed of tweets from several popular accounts on the topic of their choice, similar to what they’d see if they were logged-in.
 
12. Recap feature – Twitter now provides list of missed tweets to users as and when he opens the app. These missed tweets include some of the best tweets user missed from the accounts he follows while he was away from Twitter.
 
13. Partner ship with Google, Yahoo Japan and Flipboard – Twitter has announced deals with Yahoo Japan and Flipboard that will see Twitter ads start coming as “promoted tweets” pop up on Yahoo Japan and Flipboard. Further, Twitter’s recent deal with Google will start start showing for tweets into Google search results. For Twitter, there is no direct monetization involved from the deal but Twitter stands to gain in terms of increased traffic.
 
14. Highlights for users – This feature brings summary of the best tweets tailored for the user via push notification by letting him quickly catch up with what’s happening in his world.
 
Twitter’s product has been tweeking with various product features and has been conducting series of endless A/B tests but it has to be seen in future whether these product changes will lead to break any logjam in user acquisition. Further, Growing its monthly and daily active users should be only one part of twitter’s plan as Twitter needs to diversify its advertising products and find more ways to monetize syndicated content so as to increase its revenue per user also. Further, Twitter needs to start reengaging with its 1 Billion account holders who tried Twitter in past but did not stuck around with it by providing a compelling user experience to these users and existing users.