Chinese ride-hailing company, DiDi is set to launch its services in Nigeria

Ejike Kanife

There are indications that Chinese ride-hailing company, DiDi Chuxing is getting set to launch its operations in Nigeria, Africa’s largest market, soon. A job listing we saw suggests that the company, which launched in South Africa in March, is looking to recruit a Driver Center Manager in Lagos, Nigeria.

The job advert describes the Driver centre locations as “in-person support and experience facilities that help users get onboarded, resolve outstanding issues and get involved with DiDi’s brand and experience.”

Key responsibilities for this role include effectively managing a service team from across multiple cities, overseeing and improving driver and courier centres, and the most important of them all, collaborating with Ops to “support the successful launch“.

The role of Driver Centre Manager is a full-time position and according to findings, every country DiDi operates in has one. Bertina Tshabalala is the Manager of DiDi driver centres in South Africa. Tarek Ghanem occupies the position for Egypt.

Chinese ride-hailing company, Didi is set to launch in Nigeria soon
Screenshot of the job advert as obtained by Technext

Beyond the job placement, sources told me that the e-hailing company is headhunting for suitable talents to fill various senior roles in its proposed Nigerian operations and is already talking to prospective first members of staff of its new catchment area.

Based on what we know, most of the roles are operations inclined. This may mean that the company is planning to provide a great customer experience for its users. This may be a solid selling point for DiDi. In the face of daily complaints of poor customer service, quality service will be key to attracting millions of Nigerians who presently use other service providers.

We learnt that the recruitment process is being led by UK-based consultant, Anastasia Ioannidi. Ms Ioannidi holds a Masters Degree in the Political Economy of Europe from the London School of Economics and has more than 3 years of experience as an international recruiter.

Why is Didi coming to Nigeria?

Launching into Nigeria wasn’t part of DiDi’s 2021 goals. As of March, its plan was to establish an African footprint with its expansion into South Africa before taking over Europe with its expansion into Germany, France and the United Kingdom. So what might have changed?

Reports indicate that the Asian ride-hailing giant wasn’t initially enthusiastic about its foray into the African space.

According to Zheng Yu (a professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs at China’s Fudan University), DiDi may have opted to start with South Africa because of the country’s relatively stable market environment and high economic potential.

The professor told Chinese Magazine, Sixth Tone that, “although Africa’s consumption power and overall economic development are low, public demand for travel has continued to rise over the past two decades, which gives DiDi a great space to develop.”

He however noted that DiDi will “undoubtedly” face challenges as it adapts to African markets. He said, “DiDi needs to adapt to local consumption habits and make improvements. Otherwise, it might go the way of Uber, which lost out on the Chinese market.”

China's DiDi Launches in South Africa, How will its Model Fair against Uber and Bolt
A Didi driver in South Africa

But, the app-based taxi-hailing company appears to be adapting quite well to the African market. In six months of its stay in South Africa, the company has already stamped its presence in five cities– Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Pretoria, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth (Gqeberha).

The story is not different in Egypt- although DiDi considers Egypt a Middle Eastern market. So, judging by its African story so far, it appears business might be better than it has envisaged.

DiDi’s Head of Public Relations and Communications for Sub-Saharan Africa, Carina Smith-Allin recently said:

“Our approach as a newbie is to launch where there is big customer demand. This is because it makes business sense and it also makes sense for drivers and for riders. So you will see us in the high-demand areas soon.”

And what “area” can be as high-demand as Africa’s largest economy and most populous country?

IPO gone bad?

Another possible reason may be the recent crackdowns Didi has suffered at the hands of authorities in its home market of China. Since listing on the New York Stock Exchange, Chinese authorities slammed the company with listless restrictions as it has done to Chinese companies that dared to list abroad like Full Truck Alliance, AliBaba  and Kanzhun

The latest crackdown on the company by China was an order to remove its apps from appstores in the country. This follows sanctions for using cars with unregistered number plates and investigations for illegally collecting the personal data of its users.

This series of crackdowns has since seen the company’s stock crash and with them. DiDi’s share currently trades at $8.45, nearly 60% of its IPO price of $14. It isn’t hard to see that the company needs another big market to stick its flag.

DiDi’s possible model for Nigeria

As can be gleaned from the job adverts, DiDi plans to adopt a model that puts its customers/riders first. The aim is basically to give them a great experience with each ride.

This is the reason the company is reportedly shoring up its operations department for a start.

China's DiDi Launches in South Africa, How will its Model Fair against Uber and Bolt
DiDi continues to compete favourably with Uber and Bolt

DiDi can be expected to favour its cheap and discount-based model even though it burns through money and guarantees lower profits. This is because the model has significantly helped grow its user base and gain market dominance in several markets.

Just like its South African market, the ride-hailing startup might want to introduce different classes of services to suit different people based on their needs and financial capacity.

In South Africa, the startup offers three services: DiDi Go which is the low-cost option for customers with low financial capacity; DiDi Express which is the standard service for those seeking to balance price and comfort; DiDi XL which is for people who need more space, with a capacity of up to seven seats.

See also: China’s DiDi Takes on Uber and Bolt in SA’s Ride-hailing Market; Here’s a Comparison of their Model

I tried to reach DiDi via mail and LinkedIn messages but was yet to get a response as of the time of writing this report.

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