Uber taps into Japan with first taxi-hailing pilot

Uber has found it difficult to penetrate the Japanese market, where risk averse passengers prefer to stick to their high quality traditional taxi service. (AFP)
Updated 22 May 2018
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Uber taps into Japan with first taxi-hailing pilot

TOKYO: Uber announced Tuesday it would start its first taxi-hailing pilot program in Japan this summer, as it bids to break into a tough market in the world’s third largest economy.
The US firm has found it difficult to penetrate the Japanese market, where risk averse passengers prefer to stick to their high quality traditional taxi service.
Hailing a taxi rarely takes more than a few seconds in major Japanese cities and there has been a relatively sluggish uptake of services like Uber, where consumers order an unlicensed car via a smartphone app.
But Uber said in a statement Tuesday it would launch a pilot program this summer to hook up tourists and residents in the western Awaji island with available taxi drivers.
Uber said it aimed to provide local residents and tourists with “reliable and safe transportation” on the small island, which is home to just over 150,000 people.
“I’m very excited that Uber’s technology will contribute to further enhancing the transit environment of Awaji Island,” Brooks Entwistle, Uber’s Chief Business Officer, said in the statement, adding it will be “the first initiative of its kind in Japan.”
Uber is far from alone in targeting the Japanese taxi market, with Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing and Japanese telecom firm SoftBank announcing a deal in early February to develop a taxi app in Japan.
SoftBank has heavily invested in the taxi market and recently took a 15 percent stake in Uber.
And Sony has said it is planning a joint venture to offer artificial intelligence technology to six taxi operators, which currently own a total of 10,000 vehicles in Tokyo.
The technology would use AI to predict demand for taxis and allow companies to more efficiently mobilize their resources.
Carmaker Toyota has also announced an investment of ¥7.5 billion in the JapanTaxi app, which says it is the biggest taxi-hailing app in Japan.


Once mighty US retailer Sears files for bankruptcy

Updated 15 October 2018
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Once mighty US retailer Sears files for bankruptcy

  • Sears had been drowning in debt and reportedly could not afford a $134 million repayment
  • Started in 1886, the company was a pioneer of departmental stores that catered to everyone

WASHINGTON: Sears, the venerable US chain that once dominated the retail sector but had been in decline since the advent of the Amazon era, filed for bankruptcy Monday and announced it was closing almost 150 stores.
With a history that stretches back to 1886, the company was a pioneer of departmental stores that catered to everyone and by the mid-twentieth century had built a vast empire that stretched across North America.
But it has closed hundreds of outlets in recent years amid a retail shakeout caused in part by the rise of Amazon and other e-commerce players.
“The Company and certain of its subsidiaries have filed voluntary petitions for relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York,” a statement by Sears Holdings Corporation said.
Sears had been drowning in debt and reportedly could not afford a $134 million repayment that had been due on Monday.
Edward S. Lampert, Chairman of Sears Holdings, said the insolvency filing would give the company the “flexibility to strengthen its balance sheet” and enable it to accelerate a strategic transformation.
The company said it intended to reorganize around a smaller store platform, a strategy it said would help save tens of thousands of jobs.
But it announced it would close 142 unprofitable stores near the end of the year, in addition to the previously announced closure of 46 stores by November.
While retaining his chairmanship, Lampert will step down as CEO, with the role handled by other senior executives as part of a new “Office of the CEO.”
Sears added it had received commitments for $300 million in debtor-in-possession financing and was negotiating for an additional $300 million.
Sears is far from the only brick-and-mortar outlet to fall by the wayside as more consumers do the bulk of their shopping online.
In March, iconic Toys “R” Us announced it was shuttering all of its US outlets while other big names such as Macy’s and JC Penney have also been forced to close numerous locations and lay off workers.
American shopping malls in turn have been forced to turn to a new generation of stores, food and entertainment including players that began online, as well as gyms and video game bars like Dave & Buster’s.