As taxi companies struggle with increased competition from cut-price ride-hailing firms, such as Uber, a Chinese startup has launched a new service for cab drivers to make an extra buck.
Shenzhen based Gogo Cheba [translated as “car bar”] basically turns the vehicle into a mini convenience store, selling everything from dried meat to chewing gum and using mobile payment solutions.
Riding with a taxi in the south Chinese city one recent day, the driver leans over and asks if I want to buy a bag of macadamia nuts.
“Come on, they are really nice. I know you will like them,” the driver, named Wu Jian, says as he steers the car with one hand and holds up the bag with the other.
I politely decline. But he won’t take no for an answer.
“Try, please. Very yummy,” he says and – without asking – rips up the bag and cracks one nut open. By now, he is steering the car with his left knee and spends more attention promoting the merchandise than watching the road, making it more or less impossible to turn down his offer. I give in. The nuts are indeed yummy.
Naturally, the cabbie now sees his chance to convince us to buy more of his stuff. He tells us he also sells umbrellas, refreshing tissue, dried mango, crisps as well as coffee and tea.
When we arrive the meter is on 25 yuan (US$3.50). The total price for the ride, including the nuts, is 45 yuan.
Gogo Cheba was launched in May and claims to be “the world’s first boutique shop in a car” with some 1,000 taxi drivers in Shenzhen using its service. It plans to expand to Beijing, Shanghai and the country’s other main cities.
Founder Gou Zuyong told local media that he came up with the business idea during a taxi ride in Taiwan when the driver passionately tried to sell him local products and services.
According to the company, a taxi driver can make an extra 2,000 yuan per month from selling its products. That’s about the same amount as the minimum wage in the city. It says some 10% to 30% of all passengers will buy at least one product. Chinese media calls Gogo a “mobile version of 7-Eleven,” or a “moving mini mall.”
The company is also taking advantage of the growing number of people using mobile phone for payment. The QR code in the taxi is connected with the driver’s WeChat Wallet account and the Gogo WeChat shop.
As Asia Times has previously reported, China is quickly turning cashless as hundreds of millions consumers use mobile payments apps, like AliPay and WeChat Wallet. Of the country’s 710 million internet users – more than the United States and Europe combined – with a majority of people who go online using their smartphones to pay for goods and services.