Apple’s $1 billion investment in Chinese ride-hailing startup Didi Chuxing means the two will be working closely together, said Didi’s president Jean Liu on a conference call with reporters.
“We are very confident that we will benefit each other on product, on technology, and on many other levels,” Liu said.
The deal came together after the Didi Chuxing executive team visited Tim Cook at Apple headquarters in Cupertino on April 20. The $1 billion investment closed “like lightning” only a few short weeks later.
— Lulu Yilun Chen (@luluyilun) May 13, 2016
When asked if Didi Chuxing will be helping with Apple’s soured relationship with the Chinese government, Liu only responded that they can help each other.
“The policy makers in China now have been more and more open now,” Liu said. “There’s a good foundation that we can help each other in many ways.”
In an interview with Reuters, Apple CEO Tim Cook , chief executive of Apple, said that the move would help Apple to better understand the Chinese market.
“We are making the investment for a number of strategic reasons, including a chance to learn more about certain segments of the China market,” Cook told Reuters.
The investment gives Apple a strong foothold into the Chinese market.
Didi Chuxing, previously known as Didi Kuaidi, said it represented the single largest investment in its history. Didi is currently operating in more than 400 cities in China. There are more than 14 million registered drivers on the platform, and the company completes 11 million rides a day, Liu said. But, there’s still room to grow, and that’s where she is hoping Apple may help.
“When you look at the penetration, it’s only 1% in China, even though its 11 million rides,” Liu said. “How do we get to much hire penetration?”
The company is also backed by Chinese internet giants Tencent and Alibaba.
Didi now has Alibaba, Tencent and Apple behind it. Reasonably strong syndicate.
— Jeff Richards (@jrichlive) May 13, 2016
US rival Uber has been struggling to break into the Chinese market despite having won Chinese search engine Baidu as an investor.
Liu said that her company’s name translates to “Little Orange.”
“The first time when we met with Mr. Cook we shared with him a joke,” Liu said. “We said our company’s legal name is little orange. We figured a company named after a fruit can achieve something big.”
Didi’s Jean Liu: Relationship w/Apple started w/joke to Cook. “Didi”=”Little Orange” & “co. named after a fruit could achieve something big”
— Amir Efrati (@amir) May 13, 2016