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 chief executive who is only 23.
The service, Taxify, already claims three million customers in 19 countries. "Paris is essentially dominated by one American company," CEO Markus Villig told AFP.
"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 percent 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 that we are the biggest ridesharing platform now in Europe, after Uber, and the biggest European one actually headquartered in Europe," he said. Like Uber, Taxify operates via a smartphone app, allowing users to book rides and pay for them without using cash.
But the company says it will take only 15 percent commission from drivers, compared to Uber's 25 percent, and will price the rides 10 percent below the American giant. And unlike Uber, which lost $2.8 billion in 2016 on turnover of $6.5 billion, Taxify is profitable, its chief said.
It also enjoys the backing of Chinese giant ride-sharing company Didi Chuxing, which last year took over Uber China, driving its US competitor out of China. Didi in August said it had entered into a "strategic partnership" with Taxify, without specifying details.
But according to Villig, the Chinese behemoth, which claims 400 million users, took a stake of just under 20 percent in his company during the summer.