The main building and the headquarters of the Alibaba group in Hangzhou. Photo: iStock

Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, denied media reports on Monday that it had plans to launch an independent ride-hailing platform.

According to an exclusive report by Forbes China on August 12, Alibaba was reportedly about to start a new ride-hailing platform in Guangzhou to compete with Didi Chuxing and others, the Paper reported.

A source had told the media that the ride-hailing platform would use Alipay – one of China’s leading third-party online payment solutions – as the medium of transaction. However, to break into the already crowded ride-hailing market, Alibaba would need strategies to attract suitable road users and sign them up as their drivers.

The Tencent-backed ride-hailing start-up OnTime – Ru Qi Chu Xing in Chinese – which launched in Guangzhou on June 26, did not prove to be as popular as anticipated. Many people said they had not heard of it, probably due to the fact that it covers only four districts – Tianhe, Yuexiu, Liwan and Haizhu – in Guangdong province at present.

The Forbes report suggested that if Alibaba wanted to win the market share in an already crowded market, it should offer a wide range of high-end vehicle options for passengers.

A comprehensive application system showing the vehicle network from Alibaba would also be expected. Although the e-commerce giant had already taken the lead with Banma two years ago – a joint venture with Shanghai carmaker SAIC to build a system that would allow vehicle-to-vehicle communications, as well as in-vehicle infotainment – the strenth of competitors from home and abroad such as Baidu’s CarLife and Apple’s CarPlay should not be underestimated.

It would also be difficult, if not impossible, to beat Didi Chuxing, which has been the market leader in ride-hailing services in the country with a huge subscription and database of user preferences and experiences for the past four and five years.

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