Reflection on Uber China Business
TL;DR: We just ended a good fight. Uber China business grew from 0 to $7B business. Couple lessons worth to note here.
It’s a win in terms of ROI
Financially, our effort grew Uber China business to $7B from scratch detailed development from WSJ report . Upon the merge, China trip volume is almost half of Uber global rides, and growing faster than the rest of major regions (south east asia, US, Latam, EU). Internally, our China growth product team is only 1/10 of the rest of core product. For some big cities in China (Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen), our market share is near 30% - 40%
But we could do better
Although the leadership team did all they could to support us (eg. set up specific China Growth team to support China business), we still have a big gap in terms of iteration quickly to fill up localizaiton gap. There are multiple examples: (1) DiDi can allow users to select promotion at day 1. (2) Have clearer UX illustration during trip request about discount level (3) Better inapp communication around driver incentives. I could name more examples for both riders and drivers experience.
This is one obvious trend between US startups and China startups. Most project development on our end needs collaboration with core product/infra team (dependencies). The way Didi works is running independently for each product line. For example, for Didi’s commute product (highest profit margin on Didi), they could easily spin a new set of systems/products to hit the ground running. On our side, we need to work closely with core team (fares, dispatch) to carefully design some component to make sure the logic comply with some fundamental assumption about US market.
Altough I agree that building things separately caused long term efficiency, it’s important for a new line of business/product to run as fast as possible to verify key product market fit. Tech consolidation and efficiency could come later.
Our product team is still based in US and our product thinking is rooted in US market. For example, it will be very natural for US product team to prioritize anything related with credit card. But the reality in the ground is that most of chinese customers only have wechatPay/aliPay as their digital payment method. So when we talked to core payment team, it took couple rounds of discussion & alignment to prioritize anything related to new digital payment.
Some media coverage zoomed out to analyze background story WSJ article. But based on my first hand experience, I don’t think there is much unfairness imposed from local government.
The only unfairness I noticed is from Tencent’s wechat. Tencent invested high stake in Didi. Because Wechat is the biggest funnel for local marketing and customer relationship. It gave us hard time to get enough exposure to 3rd tiers cities customers. In later competition, what we found is that Didi earned a decent margin in 3rd tiers cities and poured the money to fund competition for 1st/2nd tier cities’ incentive spend.
这两年我的观察是现在所有的O2O 商业模式其实是对现有技术(Mobile, Cloud)的一次变现，美国公司一贯采用的高举高打的技术优势在现在的大环境下不存在，中国互联网技术已经算是赶上来了。如果在技术优势没有区分度的情况下，其实比拼的就剩下产品和运营，这也是为什么滴滴能够依靠接地气的方式来最后守住中国市场先发优势。
在做Uber China这个业务的时候，被谈到最多的是 1. 什么时候以及谁会来当China Business CEO 2. 当地研发团队。 这个是组织架构问题，很多时候我们在做project的时候其实是被绑住手脚来执行战略的。文化上(culture)，core team不会那么重视中国业务，这是在次次我们去开会，谈解决方案能切身体会到的。所以如果整个产品运营都是local 团队，打一场局部战争，可能结局会不一样。当然TK确实收到了董事会的压力，否则也不会这个时候退。