COVID-19 Is a Big Reputational Opportunity for DiDi Chuxing

While for most Chinese enterprises the COVID-19 outbreak meant no business, one company not only kept the engines running but also seized the opportunity to improve its reputation. To be fair, Didi’s recent reputation has been virtually spotless anyway. The company went through a full security revamp, carefully relaunching a Hitch service that previously (after several murder cases) got it into trouble. Didi added a slew of handy features, including a convenient English version for expats while also expanding into several markets. However, the company’s efforts in mediating the current outbreak might further cement it as the darling of the Chinese public.

As Chinese subways remain relatively desolate, Didi’s been the transportation option of choice for many Chinese who would much rather take the risk of riding a car with just one person than a subway cart with a dozen. Didi responded to the challenge with determination, publishing a hygiene guide for its drivers and passengers, requiring everybody to wear a mask inside the vehicle and even recently installing protective sheets in ride-hailing cars to separate the driver from the passenger and lower the risk of virus transmission. The latter move went viral on China’s largest microblogging platform Weibo, with most users mocking the crudeness of the idea but also applauding its efficiency.

Didi’s also been among the most active parties in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, forming volunteer fleets to service local hospitals and health professionals completely free of charge. A special fleet of over a thousand Didi drivers equipped with protective uniforms and driving regularly disinfected cars now offers around the clock transportation to all hospital staff in Wuhan. According to people familiar with the matter, the company has also been distributing face masks and disinfectants to its drivers all across China. 

Understanding the hardships that many people in China are facing because of the prolonged quarantine, Didi has also coordinated with over 3,000 leasing partners across the country to expand a lease extension plan for its ride-hailing drivers. The initiative currently involves waving the February lease and insurance payments for the company’s drivers nationwide. Among Didi’s 38 main insurance partners in this project are People’s Insurance Company of China, Ping An Insurance, Pacific Insurance, China Life Insurance and other top Chinese insurance firms.

The ride-hailing giant has even launched a special COVID-2019 insurance program, offering medical emergency allowances to drivers who continue working while other means of public transportation in China are either suspended or considered unsafe. According to the data released by Didi, it currently has over 20 million drivers on the streets regardless of the dangers posed by the virus. Somehow apart from dealing with a critical situation at home, the company also manages to make international moves, recently launching services in Sydney, Australia’s largest ride-hailing market. While we don’t mean to fanboy, Didi’s been a constant and a predominately positive presence in the news these days, which we cannot help but appreciate at this gloomy time.