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Uber Tamed by Didi's Cheng Wei – a Chinese Patriot

Uber Tamed by Didi's Cheng Wei – a Chinese Patriot
Last week Uber's China business was bought over by Didi Chuxing – a company owned by Cheng Wei, 34, who was once an assistant to the head of a foot massage firm. This business tycoon had built up the company from his humble beginning and after the takeover of Uber China, the ride-hailing start-up at $35 billion - a second success in as many years in a grueling battle with a rival.
Cheng has all the qualities that are pivotal in taking on and beating Uber in a two-year, multi-billion-dollar scrap for China's competitive ride-hailing market such a a cool head, a keen strategic eye and a lack of ego, says investors and Didi staff.
Some of those who know him say that his leadership style is also cut-throat and tinged with nationalism. He often references China's history and military in his speeches.
As he looks to turn his vast, money-losing ride-hailing company into a meaningful business, he will be closely watched. The company's virtual monopoly will mean pricier rides and lower wages, fears Didi users and drivers, reported Chinese media.
"He's probably one of the fastest growing CEOs I've seen. If not the best then definitely one of the top three, and I back a lot of people," said Hans Tung, managing partner at GGV Capital, which has funded Beijing-based Didi.
Cheng has an astute eye for talent - such as hiring foreign-educated rainmaker and ex-Goldman Sachs banker Jean Liu and favors rectangle-framed glasses and polo shirts. Liu was critical in managing Didi's relationship with major investors Alibaba and Tencent, both of which are bitter internet rivals, say those who have worked with him.

"From the outside, you'd say this guy is really lucky, but on the flip side, he knows who the right people to know are and who to have good relationships with, and how to get them to work with him. It's a very unique personality trait," said a person who has worked with and advised Cheng for years.
Cheng was not satisfied with the job he had taken up after graduate in Administration. "He was an assistant to a chairman at a foot massage company. He thought it wasn't interesting, and after about a year he applied to join Alibaba as a sales person," said Zhu.
Before moving to the e-commerce group's online payment arm, Alipay, where he was deputy general manager, Cheng had risen to being a sales manager for the north of China in six years.
Didi Dache - meaning "Beep Beep Call a Taxi" - the initial incarnation of his ride-hailing service, was launched by Cheng in 2012 and founded Beijing Orange Technology Co. However as a potential suitor rather than a rival, the following year, Didi had its first run-in with Uber.
GGV's Tung, who was then at Qiming Venture Partners and introduced the two parties, recalled that Uber co-founder and chairman Garrett Camp was in China at the time Didi was having a second round of fundraising. "I encouraged Uber to invest in Didi because China's not an easy market to crack, but it was too early for Uber," he said.
Instead a grinding war against Alibaba-backed rival Kuaidi Dache was sparked after Tencent funded Didi in mid-2013. To gain market share, both subsidized rides and gave driver bonuses and thus threw hundreds of millions of dollars.
With a merger of the two companies into Didi Kuaidi, which later became Didi Chuxing, that war ended early last year.
"It's tough competition. But that's one of the extraordinary things about him; when it's time to do a deal, he's very practical," said the adviser to Cheng of the ride-hailing sector.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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