Chinese search engine giant Baidu is dipping to toes into the corporate taxi hailing business by partnering with Yongche, one of the leading car rental players in the country.
The service will be launched by way of a mobile app (initially only on Android) featuring Baidu's Maps and Yongche as the taxi service provider.
The move sees Baidu attempting to catch up with its local arch rivals - Tencent and Alibaba, both of which have targeted the Chinese taxi hailing market.
Earlier this year Didi Dache raised $100 million investment from Tencent and Citic. In November 2013, Hangzhou-based Kuaidadi raised $100 million from investors including Alibaba.
Brand director of Yongche, Regan Hu, says the agreement is an exclusive partnership and that the rivals Didi Dache and Kuaidadi will not be listed in the new app.
"Baidu partnered with us because of our brand reputation and coverage in China, high response rate and customer-friendly products. At the same time, we need Baidu's brand and platform. This is just a first step in our in-depth partnership."
Yongche has three services: self-drive car rentals, Uber-style luxury cars and a taxi-booking app Dache Xiaomi.
Yongche's corporate car hire service enables companies to authorize its employees to request a taxi, makes the billing process easier, monitor the taxi location/movement, and it also guarantees a taxi within one hour from the request time.
When asked Hu about any investment made by Baidu in this new partnership, he declined to comment.
In December 2013, Yongche raised Series C funding of $60 million led by Ctrip and DCM.
Yongche operates in 77 cities in China including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and it has about 50,000 cars in its system.
Earlier this year Baidu launched a visual map (by leveraging Big Data) that showed the pattern of people travelling within China during the Chinese New Year celebrations.