Brazilian smartphone ride-hailing service 99, owned by China’s Didi Chuxing Technology Co Ltd, will be available on WhatsApp under a new agreement aimed at gaining an edge over U.S. rival and market leader Uber.
The deal, that will allow users to summon cars on WhatsApp, the chat platform owned by Facebook, without using another app, is the first of its kind in the world for Didi, China’s biggest ride-hailing company, the companies said.
Didi expects the deal to give 99 an advantage in competing with U.S.-based Uber Technologies Inc , the market leader in Brazil.
WhatsApp has 120 million active users in Brazil, which has a population of 210 million, making it the app’s second-largest market behind India.
99 has about 20 million customers registered with its app and more than 750 thousand active drivers across Brazil.
The service, initially limited to four cities in São Paulo state, will expand to the whole of Brazil by the end of 2020, said Livia Pozzi, operations manager at 99.
Initially, rides ordered over WhatsApp will have to be paid in cash, which is how 70% of the orders via 99 are currently paid for, Pozzi said.
The fare will be the same as for rides ordered over the 99 app. At a later date, WhatsApp will allow users to use its new instant payments system to pay for rides on 99, said Gabriela Comazzetto, Facebook business director in Brazil.
The country’s Central Bank is allowing payments through the WhatsApp system on a trial basis.