Stephen Zhu on Didi

As Didi and Uber go head to head to conquer the Chinese market, Stephen Zhu, VP of Strategy and Head of Taxi Services at Didi has said it’s a much harder task to master China’s cities than comparable markets like San Francisco.

“Of course it’s more difficult, because Beijing has 20 million people. When you compare the difficulty level it’s like comparing calculus with algebra”, said Mr. Zhu onstage at TechCrunch Beijing on Tuesday, an event co-hosted by Technode.

“The traffic system is more complicated here,” he continued, saying that matching the thousands of passengers with cars within Beijing’s convoluted traffic network was an ongoing challenge, with the company processing over 50 terabytes of data each day.

Referring to markets like San Francisco, where their largest foreign rival Uber is based, Didi has been “dealing with countless other problems every day compared to companies who’ve only been solving algebra problems,” said Mr. Zhu.

According to the company, Didi facilitates approximately 7 million rides a day in China, with private cars accounting for about 4 million rides, taxis 2 million and other services including hitch and carpooling making up the remaining 1 million.

Didi has been expanding aggressively out of their core taxi-hailing business, which now only accounts for 28.5% of their total rides, according to the company’s own estimates. They launched their private car service 14 months ago, which has gone head to head with Uber’s expanding China operations.

Mr. Zhu also commented on the company’s expanding investment portfolio, noting that they were already emerging their local counterparts to cross promote rides through the corresponding apps.

“For example, [when] all the passengers who use didi in China go to South East Asia, where we work with Grab Taxi, when they turn on Didi… they can hail a car through the network,” said Zhu. Didi recently revealed that the same cross-platform service would be available for Lyft users by early next year.

Mr Zhu. also said that the company would be spending an increasing amount of money on innovation investment. Currently they are only legally registered for certain services in Shanghai, including their ‘Hitch’ service, which is similar to Uber’s original ride-sharing model.

This past week we had the pleasure of welcoming Stephen Zhu, the VP of Strategy and Head of Taxi Services at Didi to join us onstage at TechCrunch Beijing, cohosted by Technode. You can view the full video here.