Estonian competition: Taxify CEO Markus Villig is upbeat about growth. Picture: REUTERS
Estonian competition: Taxify CEO Markus Villig is upbeat about growth. Picture: REUTERS

Paris — An Estonian ride-hailing service started operations in Paris on Thursday, tackling market leader Uber armed with backing from China’s Didi, bigger margins for drivers and a CE who is only 23 years old.

The service, Taxify, already claims 3-million customers in 19 countries.

"Paris is essentially dominated by one US company," CE Markus Villig said.

"We want to prove that European companies can also come in and gain a significant market share and show some competition," said Villig, who founded Taxify when he was a 19-year-old student.

Villig said Taxify had managed to capture 20% to 30% of market share within the first year of operations in some countries and "we hope that we can have something similar in France as well".

"I’m proud to say we are the biggest ride-sharing platform now in Europe, after Uber, and the biggest European one actually headquartered in Europe."

Like Uber, Taxify operates via a smartphone app, allowing users to book rides and pay for them without using cash. But Taxify said it would take only 15% commission from drivers, compared with Uber’s 25% and would price the rides 10% below those of the US giant.

And unlike Uber, which lost $2.8bn in 2016 on turnover of $6.5bn, Taxify is profitable, Villig said. The company also enjoys the backing of Chinese ride-sharing company Didi Chuxing, which in 2016 took over Uber China, driving its US competitor out of China.

Didi said in August it had entered into a "strategic partnership" with Taxify, without specifying details. But according to Villig, the Chinese behemoth, which claims it has 400-million users, took a stake of just under 20% in his company during the summer.


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