Estonian ride-hailer Bolt launches in Thailand offering better rates

07/29/2020 | 04:41am

Bolt, a popular ride-sharing system in Eastern Europe and Africa, has rolled out its platform in Thailand, the company said on Wednesday, as competition grows among Southeast Asian ride-hailers.

Backed by Daimler and China's Didi Chuxing, Bolt said its pilot venture in the Thai capital, its first in Southeast Asia, has more than 2,000 drivers and will offer better rates to drivers and riders.

"For a minimum of six months, Bolt in Thailand commits to charging drivers no commission for using the platform and offers fares 20% lower than other competitors," it said.

The announcement comes as drivers of well-funded rivals, including Singapore-based Grab, backed by SoftBank Group, and Indonesia's Go-Jek, battled the coronavirus crisis that has devastated economies around the globe.

These services, however, were already reeling under high costs even before the outbreak.

Grab Thailand lost more than $22 million in 2018, while rapid growth led to a near doubling of losses last year.

"Our experience in Europe and Africa has proven that ride-hailing is not a winner-takes-all market," Bolt said in a statement to Reuters.

Ride-sharing services exist in a legal gray area in Thailand, with police routinely stopping and fining drivers because they are not properly registered.

"The existing pressure from taxi associations against legalisation still looms large," said Ben Kiatkwankul of government affairs advisory the Maverick Consulting Group.

"The government could take action against these players in the future."

Bolt said it complied with all requirements to operate in Thailand and worked with the government on regulation.

Thailand's plan to legalise ride-hailing services this year has slowed because of the pandemic.

Bolt, founded in 2013, has more than 30 million users in over 35 countries across Europe and Africa.

(Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Clarence Fernandez)

By Chayut Setboonsarng

Thomson Reuters 2020
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