Hailing a taxi has never been easier, thanks to the proliferation of ride-hailing apps. Now so too is ringing in an auspicious new year.
Ride-hailing app Uber this week helped users in parts of Asia get into the Lunar New Year spirit by offering on-demand lion dances.
Lion dances are traditional dances in Chinese and other Asian cultures accompanied by loud banging of drums, cymbals or gongs. They are generally performed around the Lunar New Year as well as at auspicious events like weddings and the openings of businesses.
“Our app connects people with the closet possible driver. So we try to think, what else can we connect you with the closest possible of anything?” said Sam Gellman, Uber’s general manager in Hong Kong. “For Chinese New Year, we thought this would be a fun thing that celebrates the local culture and shows off the technology as well.”
Uber offered the lion dances on demand in eight Chinese cities and in Singapore and Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, the lion dancing troupe was a volunteer group from a local college, so all proceeds from the dances—which required a donation of at least 500 Hong Kong dollars—went to a local charity.
The promotion is the latest by the ride-hailing app, which faces stiff competition in China. Over the weekend, the country’s two most popular ride-hailing apps, Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache, announced that they would merge.
Car-booking apps are just one element of China’s quickly evolving Internet-services economy, which is drawing competitors seeking to win over the country’s 500 million smartphone-wielding consumers and the revenue they control.
China’s biggest names in the Internet sector have all gotten into the the ride-app battle: E-commerce giant Alibaba has backed Kuaidi, Internet giant Tencent has backed Didi Dache, and China’s biggest search portal Baidu has teamed up with Uber.
Last month, Kuaidi Dache raised about $600 million in their latest fundraising round, following Didi Dache’s more than $700 million investment round in December. Also in December, San Francisco-based Uber was valued at more than $41 billion.
This article appeared in Wall Street Journal.