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It boils down to data

Dec 16,2019
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LEE DONG-HYUN
The author is a deputy head of the industry team of the JoongAng Ilbo.

What do Uber, Didi Chuxing, Ola and Grab have in common?

A reader interested in mobility would know that they are regional ride hailing leaders. Uber serves North America and Europe, Didi Chuxing China and Grab Southeast Asia, while Ola is India’s largest ride-hailing company.

Secondly, their largest — or major — shareholder is the Vision Fund led by Japan’s Softbank chairman Masayoshi Son. When the mobility market first opened more than 10 years ago, competition among companies was fierce. About three years ago, regional leaders became clear. Uber left Southeast Asia, and Didi dominated the Chinese market.

Competition may have naturally divided the regions. But the industry considers it an artificial reshuffle by Son. He invested in each mobility powerhouse and participated in the management to reduce unnecessary competition. He “chose” dominant businesses. This is what happened in 2017. But a scarier big picture emerged.

Last year, Son partnered with Toyota — Japan’s biggest carmaker — to establish Monet Technologies, a mobility service company. This year, Honda and Hino also joined. A Japanese automobile alliance has been formed. Now, the big picture is visible. The intention is to dominate the platform, service and hardware of the future mobility market.

The core is data. From auto drive to artificial intelligence to service, I am sure that data of countless users will make money. Softbank is creating a gigantic field of mobility, which encompasses the entire world. Korea’s van-hailing service Tada has never been innovative. I think Tada should be saved not because it is innovative but because it is a company that collects data. Can the company “achieve innovation” until its service becomes outlawed after one and a half years? By then, you may have to buy data from others at a high price.