In Japan, ride-hailing apps are the next big thing

Tourists often search for ride-hailing apps when they land in Japan.

Tourists often search for ride-hailing apps when they land in Japan.

With their white-gloved, greying drivers and lace-covered seating, Japan’s taxis seem to belong to another era, but as the 2020 Olympics approach, the sedate sector is facing a quiet revolution.

This week, Uber’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi made his first visit to Japan since taking over at the firm, touting “promising partnership talks”. The global ride-hailing giant has had little success so far penetrating Japan’s taxi market, which is governed by strict regulations. But instead of pursuing the aggressive strategies, the company is opting for a charm offensive, emphasising cooperation rather than confrontation.

“We need to come in with partnership in mind, and in particular a partnership with the taxi industry here, which actually has a very, very strong product,” he added. “But that product hasn’t kept up with technological change”.

Japan’s taxi companies have seen little reason until now to innovate. But with major sporting events — the Rugby World Cup next year and the 2020 Olympics — expected to bring in an unprecedented number of tourists, companies including Uber think the time is right for a taxi revolution. “We know that the first thing many people do when they arrive in a country is open the Uber app. Our vision is for visitors to Japan to get a taxi via the app, with no language issues,” Uber spokesman Chris Brummitt said.

A leading taxi company Nihon Kotsu recently began testing a ride-sharing app.

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Printable version | Jun 25, 2022 4:30:54 pm |