July 29, 2020 / 5:41 AM / 17 days ago

Estonian ride-hailer Bolt launches in Thailand with better rates

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Bolt, a popular ride-sharing system in Eastern Europe and Africa, said on Wednesday it has rolled out its platform in Thailand as competition intensifies among Southeast Asian ride-hailers with cities gradually emerging from the lockdown.

Bolt, backed by Daimler and China’s Didi Chuxing, said its pilot venture in the Thai capital 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,” the Estonian company said.

The announcement comes as drivers of well-funded rivals including Singapore-based Grab, backed by SoftBank Group, and Indonesia’s Go-Jek struggled due to the coronavirus crisis that devastated global economies.

The pandemic has also raised doubts whether the ride-hailing firms can maintain their promise of improving the lives of millions of poor. These services were already reeling under high costs even before the outbreak.

Venture capitalists have in general pulled back from the sector amid concerns over excessive competition and high valuations for companies that generally are not profitable.

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

Bolt, founded in 2013, has more than 30 million users in over 35 countries across Europe and Africa. Its services include ride-hailing, e-scooters and food delivery.

Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips

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