Lyft partners with Ola, GrabTaxi to reach Asian markets

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 03, 2015 3:53 PM

By Heather Somerville

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Lyft has formed partnerships with two Asian on-demand ride services, Ola and GrabTaxi, as the U.S. company works to gain a toehold in the booming overseas market.

The companies, which connect passengers and cars or other transportation services through mobile apps, will integrate their apps so passengers can use all platforms to hail a ride as they travel between the U.S. and Asia.

The companies will also share information on new technology and products, and knowledge of local markets and regulations. The partnership, announced Thursday by Lyft Co-founder and President John Zimmer, is expected to be completed by mid-2016.

This builds upon a deal signed with Didi Kuaidi, China's largest ride-hailing company, in September, which also came with a $100 million investment into Lyft.

Ola and GrabTaxi have not offered any funding to Lyft, a spokeswoman for Lyft said.

Joining forces allows these ride services to bolster, albeit just slightly, their competitive edge to Uber, a global force that is in 67 countries and has become the most highly valued private tech company.

On Thursday, Bloomberg reported that Uber was looking to raise $2.1 billion that would push its valuation to $62.5 billion, citing people familiar with the matter.

Lyft, the No. 2 U.S. on-demand ride service is currently in about 150 U.S. cities but has been slow to expand overseas.

The app partnership, however, allows Lyft to build its brand awareness in Asia.

Lyft users traveling to India, for example, will be able to open their Lyft app in that country and access Ola's service, while paying in U.S. dollars and using the app in English, the company said.

Users of the Ola and GrabTaxi ride apps - the latter serves Southeast Asia including Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam - will have access to Lyft when visiting the U.S., and can use the app in their native language and pay with their native currency.

"The thought behind this is, for these Asian geographies, partnering with other companies is the way to go," Zimmer said. "We will have other strategies for other geographies."

Thorny local regulations and the dominance of the Asian ride services in their home countries would make setting up operations alone in those markets very challenging, he said.

Lyft in October hit a $1 billion run rate in gross annual bookings. That month, the company made about $83 million from some 7 million rides.

(Reporting by Heather Somerville; Editing by Diane Craft)