Hello Interconnected Readers:

I’ve been battling a stomach infection this week (finally got antibiotics and trending in the right direction), so I will keep this issue brief but hopefully still interesting, with some on the ground observations about tech in Mexico.

As my luck would have it, my Airbnb in Mexico City is two blocks away from the big WeWork building where DiDi’s local office is located. I would not have found it except that every day, there is a long line of people waiting to get in and get hired as delivery people. Meanwhile, the Uber office that’s literally one block away has hardly any foot traffic.

Obviously, this piqued my interest. What is Didi doing in Mexico? Why is it attracting so many people?

As it turns out, Didi is aggressively expanding into Mexican market and incentivizing delivery drivers with 10% more earnings than its competitors among other things.

The food delivery landscape in Mexico is largely dominated by Rappi and Uber Eats. Rappi is the Colombia-born food delivery app that has taken the LATAM region by storm and fiercely expanding into grocery and pharmacy delivery, payment, and financial services. Its positioning is more akin to super apps like WeChat, Meituan, or Grab, not any of its US look-alikes.

This super app evolution isn’t accidental. Having talked to both current and former Rappi employees, as well as entrepreneurs in other industries in Mexico, they tend to look for inspirations and references from American success stories first. However, as they grow and scale, they often realize that the LATAM market conditions look more similar to that of Asia, not the US. Both regions are developing markets growing at different stages. So their learning and focus shifts from northward to westward.

Right now, Rappi dominates Uber Eats in the region, not because it has better technology (the app often breaks), but because it is deeply localized with more choices and services that local people want and need. So where does that leave Didi?

While Rappi and Uber Eats are fighting for market share with people who have the money to spend on delivery consistently, Didi is going down market to attract lower-income users. Serving these users may lose money for a long time; many of these people may never move into the middle or upper-middle class to become more profitable customers. Combined with the extra earnings it's promising to attract drivers, Didi’s mission in Mexico appears to be a money-burning machine.

Yet, burning money to gain mass market share is a classic strategy in the Chinese internet giants’ growth playbook. A recent case in point: Douyin was the official Red Packet partner of this year’s Lunar New Year Banquet variety show on TV. During this promotion, Douyin gave away 1.2 billion RMB (~232 million USD) of cold, hard cash to incentivize people to download the app and tie their bank accounts to its payment gateway. This Lunar New Year Red Packet partnership was pioneered by WeChat Pay back in 2015 and has been a focal point in China’s consumer tech scene ever since.

This “pay to grow” strategy is rarely discussed in the US, because: 1. It cannot happen in the US because it would violate certain terms of service of the apps stores; 2. It’s seen as low-brow and obtuse.

Obviously, it also works like a charm.

It works in China, because the majority of the population are still poor, either in reality or in mindset, thus would respond well to simple cash giveaways. And it’s reasonable to assume that the same incentives would work well in Mexico and other parts of LATAM, where the population is even poorer. So while Rappi and Uber Eats are fighting over people who already have money, Didi is betting heavily on grabbing people who don’t with cheaper services and more incentives, hoping that some of them will become better off eventually.

Will Didi’s strategy work? Will Rappi imitate it, since it has been imitating other aspects of Asian super apps already?

I don’t know, but stomach infection aside, I’m glad I’m here to see some of it in action.

Kevin

If you like what you've read, please SUBSCRIBE to the Interconnected email list. To read all previous posts, please check out the Archive section. New content will be delivered to your inbox (twice per week). Follow and interact with me on: Twitter, LinkedIn, Clubhouse (@kevinsxu).

Hello 《互联》读者们:

这周发现我的胃被细菌感染,所以一直不舒服,终于开始吃抗生素,有好转了。还在恢复中,所以今天的文章不会很长。主题是写一些我在墨西哥关于科技的实地观察,希望给您一些不同的收获。

我在墨西哥城的Airbnb恰巧离WeWork的大楼很近,滴滴当地的总部也在那里。如果不是每天都有长长的队伍等着进去,被聘为送货员,我可能还不会关注到它。仅个一条街的Uber办公室,却非常冷清。

这激起了我的兴趣。滴滴在墨西哥到底在做什么?为什么吸引了这么多人?

原来,滴滴正在积极拓展墨西哥市场,并以比竞争对手多出10%的收入等方式激励送餐司机来应聘。

墨西哥的送餐服务格局主要由Rappi和Uber Eats主导。Rappi起家于哥伦比亚,在拉美地区已经是个巨头,并在猛烈拓展到杂货和药物配送、支付和金融服务等领域。它的定位更接近像微信、美团、Grab这种super app,而不是在美国市场类似的产品。

这种超super app方向进化的打法并非偶然。在与Rappi的现任和前员工以及墨西哥其他行业的创业者交流过程中,我发现出一个现象。他们往往先于美国的成功公司对标, 从中寻找产品灵感和参考案例。然而,随着他们的成长和扩大,往往会意识到拉美市场的状况与亚洲的市场状况更相似,而不是美国。两个区域都是在不同阶段成长的发展中市场。于是,他们的对标和眼光从北往西转。

现在Rappi绝对是拉美提取的领头羊,Uber Eats是老二。Rappi能领先不是因为它的技术最好(app里的bug仍然很多),而是因为它深度本土化,提供了更多当地人想要和需要的选择和服务。在这种情况下,滴滴又怎么定位自己呢?

当Rappi和Uber Eats在争夺有钱人的市场份额的时候,滴滴在争下游市场,吸引低收入用户。服务这种用户可能会长期亏损,很多人可能永远不会迈入中产或中上产阶级,变成利润更高的客户。再加上滴滴承诺司机们的额外收益,它在墨西哥扩张的使命很可能就是一台“烧钱机”。

然而,以直接烧钱来扩大市场份额,这是中国互联网巨头们的经典增长策略之一。随便举一个近期的例子:抖音是今年春晚的官方红包合作伙伴。在这次活动中,抖音发了12亿人民币(约合2.32亿美元)的实实惠惠的现金红包,鼓励大家下载app,绑定银行账户。与春晚做红包合作的第一例是2015年的微信支付,之后每年谁是官方合作伙伴都是中国科技界的焦点。

这种 "用现金买增长"的策略在美国科技界很少被议论,因为:1. 它不可能在美国发生,因为做法会违反app store的某些条款;2. 被视为很低俗钝化。

显然,它也是很好用的。

这种策略在中国行得通,因为大多数人还是很穷,无论是现实中真穷还是在思想上穷,因此对简单粗暴的现金刺激反应很强烈。而在墨西哥以及拉美其他地区的人口更穷,所以理论上来说,同样的激励方式也应该很好用。因此,当Rappi和Uber Eats在争夺那些有钱人的时候,滴滴则在用更便宜的服务和更多的激励措施在大力抢夺那些没有钱的人,希望他们中的一些人以后变得更有钱。

滴滴的策略会成功吗?Rappi会不会模仿滴滴?(它已经在模仿亚洲super app的各种做法了。)

我不知道,但撇开胃不舒服不谈,我还是很高兴能在当地亲眼看到这些动态。

Kevin

如果您喜欢所读的内容,请用email订阅加入“互联”。要想读以前的文章,请查阅《互联档案》。每周两次,新的文章将会直接送达您的邮箱。请在TwitterLinkedIn、Clubhouse(@kevinsxu)上给个follow,和我交流互动!