A Didi executive said on Wednesday at that the company has launched virtual banking services to its drivers and passengers in Brazil as the company expands in Latin America.

Why it matters: The Beijing-based ride-hailing giant is expanding its business to international markets such as Southeast Asia, Japan, and Latin America, the major fronts in its competition with Uber.

  • Uber CTO Thuan Pham said on Tuesday to an audience at the RISE Conference in Hong Kong that the competition with Didi is healthy and necessary. “If you don’t have competition, then you can become complacent because there’s no competition to challenge,” he said.
  • Zheng Bu, chief security officer and vice president of international business technology at Didi, agreed and added that competition spurs the company to seek out different problems that users and drivers are experiencing.

“In some of the countries or regions, our peers are already there. But there are still many user pain points waiting for us to solve. So we go there and address the local people’s pain points.“

— Zheng Bu, Didi’s chief security officer

Details: Didi said that many people in Brazil don’t have a bank account so drivers and passengers cannot make online transactions with the ride-hailing platform. Zheng said the company offers virtual banking services to drivers by providing them with a MasterCard debit card, called the 99 Card.

  • Drivers in Brazil get a 99 Card immediately after registering. The bank card allows drivers to receive income from their daily rides, as well as withdraw cash or make payments.
  • Didi also introduced Didi Cash, an e-wallet that allows riders to top up their Didi account through a partnership with local convenience stores.

Context: In Brazil, the most populous country in Latin America, around one-third of adults were unbanked as of end-2017, according to a World Bank report.

  • “In Brazil, there are many people who can drive, but they are not able to become Didi drivers mainly because they are unbanked. So we went ahead and started to offer banking services to them,” said Zheng.
  • Didi acquired control of Brazilian ride-hailing startup, 99, in January 2018, and continues to offer its service in Brazil under the 99 brand, said Zheng.

Writing about semiconductors and telecommunications.

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