Beijing to Brazil: My notes on Didi’s Latin American expansion
  • Beijing to Brazil: My notes on Didi’s Latin American expansion

    Jeffrey is a TIA Star Contributor and publishes high-value content that serves the Asian tech community. Read more from TIA Star Contributors here.To get more china technology news, you can visit shine news official website.

    I recently visited the Didi headquarters in Sao Paulo, where they acquired local ride-sharing company 99. In part 1, I talked about how driver needs and services are appearing to be particularly different in Brazil vs China.

    Here are some other differences I observed.

    Localization is an important question for ride-sharing globally
    Uber, unfortunately, has become the gold standard for how not to go global as a ride-sharing company. They rolled out their services around the world in a mostly standardized fashion, with the tech and management significantly centralized in San Francisco.This made sense, as data technology and software scale and expand geographically very easily, and combining this with local data is a powerful approach. It’s also worked for Facebook and Google globally.

    But Uber was beaten virtually everywhere by local ride-sharing companies. Ola won in India, Grab in Southeast Asia, Didi in China, and so on. It turns out that ride-sharing can be a pretty local business, and having local owner-managers can be a real strength.

    Didi, by and large, avoided this approach by investing in local champions around the world. And since 2016, Uber has retreated back to the US while the Didi Alliance has become dominant in much of the world.

    But Didi is now going international itself, ironically going head-to-head with Uber in two of their largest remaining international markets: Brazil and Mexico.I spoke with Davi Miyake Dos Santos (99’s head of strategy and planning) about this in Sao Paulo. I then later spoke with Benjamin Wang (Didi’s international business chief of staff) at their Beijing headquarters.

    My question was “How do you go global as a ride-sharing business?” Particularly, I wanted to know the following:How much do you centralize to headquarters? Does this include technology, data, product development, management, decision making, and/or budgeting? What about ownership?
    How much do you localize in each geography? How much authority do you give to local management? Can staff in Sao Paulo launch new driver services on their own? Can they change code?
    Every multinational company deals with these questions. But ride-sharing and local software-enabled platforms are a new type of business. The answers are not obvious.

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