Didi Chuxing made its first push into the food delivery market nearly a month ago but is already the ride-hailing giant is facing a pushback from its delivery fleet. Didi Waimai’s (Didi Takeaway) deliverymen staged a protest for two consecutive days beginning with April 25th in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province.

Wuxi is the first stop for Didi’s experiment with food delivery and, apparently, it is not panning out that well. According to local media reports, around 30 drivers gathered on Thursday at lunchtime, the peak hour for deliveries, to express their dissatisfaction with a serious drop in the number of orders and a change in rules for payments. The majority of the protesters were freelancers for Didi Waimai who complained of unfair rules and meager earnings. Media reports dubbed the gathering a strike.

The protesting deliverymen claimed that the number of orders they have received has dropped by more than 50%. Some of the freelance drivers said they have been working for 8 hours a day with only 10 orders. The protesters are also accusing Didi of changing the reward conditions for full-time deliverymen called “loyal riders” from 100 to 150 orders per week.

For their part, Didi says that the drivers’ claims about decreased order volume are incorrect. Instead, the company told TechNode, the number of users has steadily increased and, due to the success in Wuxi, Didi will be bringing their food delivery service to 9 other cities in China soon.

Didi’s recruitment ad promised it’s full-time deliverymen RMB 10,000 guaranteed for a month: if riders would complete 100 orders within a week they would receive a reward of RMB 2500. According to reports, Didi managed to recruit a sizeable fleet of deliverymen which were drawn by good conditions offered in the ongoing war between Didi and Meituan, the O2O platform that operates a huge food delivery operation.

Update: Didi responded to TechNode’s reports with a statement:

This was not a strike and the gathering was over in 20 minutes. There are two kinds of couriers on DiDi Foodie platform, loyal couriers who take orders exclusively from DiDi and part-time couriers who can work for any food delivery platforms without working time restriction. Both types of couriers receive orders higher than the average level in Wuxi. DiDi Foodie is expanding to more cities and creating more orders for our couriers.

Didi claimed that the platform had taken a third of the market only two days after its launch on April 2. The following week, on April 9th, Didi Waimai officially launched and handled 334,000 deliveries that day, making it the top food delivery firm in the city.

Why the number of orders has managed to drop so dramatically is unclear.

Didi has been looking to enter the food delivery sector as early as last December. Besides stepping in on Meituan’s food delivery turf it is also competing with the company in its own playing field. Meituan Dianping’s ride-hailing service Meituan Dache quietly started taking passengers in Nanjing in February than in Shanghai from mid-March, where the company was called in by authorities over regulations. Didi later thanked Meituan for bringing competition to the market.  

This article was updated April 30, 2018, to clarify that the protests were staged mostly by Didi Chuxing’s freelance deliverymen.

Masha Borak is a technology reporter based in Beijing. Write to her at masha.borak [at] technode.com. Pitches with the word "disruptive" will be ignored. Read a good book - learn some more adjectives.

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