Kakao Inc is a tech company based in Seoul, South Korea, and is well-known for its most famous instant messaging application called KaTalk, or KakaoTalk. Kakao is the number one mobile communication app in South Korea, and has expanded to 15 other countries, including Japan.
It can be compared to Japan’s LINE app, which is used by most smartphone users in Japan to share information. More than 5 million Koreans visit Japan every year, and some of them have a very strong relationship with the country. Not all of them can speak or read Japanese, however, which makes it difficult for them to book taxis online while they are in Japan. This is going to be solved as Kakao’s ride-sharing service is coming to Japan soon.
As of June 2017, Nihon Kotsu (日本交通) is the number one taxi service in Japan in terms of the number of drivers and taxis available for customers. Many locals use its app for booking taxis through their smartphones. It is available in English and Mandarin too, for internationals to make use of the app in Japan. However, people from Korea who do not speak English, Chineserasa, or Japanese may find it difficult to use Nihon-Kotsu’s services.
Nihon Kotsu, therefore, is partnering with Kakao to help Korean people traveling in Japan by offering taxi services through the new Kakao Taxi app. It is also going to help Japanese people using the Nihon Kotsu app when they are traveling in South Korea as they can get rides in Kakao taxis. Nihon Kotsu is already in partnership with other ride-hailing apps such as LINE. If you take messaging apps integrating taxi services into account, LINE Taxi dominates the ride-sharing business in Japan.
KakaoTalk boasts to have been used by more than 170 million people around the world, and aside from South Korea, most of them are from Indonesia or Japan. In Japan, it is used not only by Koreans, but also young Japanese people. Kakao, alongside LINE, helped families connect with missing people with the instant messaging platform during the 2011 earthquake in Japan.
With encrypted data, free calls, interactive emoticons and stickers, chatrooms, games, K-POP following, and local language support, Kakao has been one of the fastest growing mobile applications in the world. They even started the ride-sharing app called Kakao Taxi, integrating with its main messaging app.
As of now, Kakao Taxi doesn’t seem to be facing any serious competition as it is going to enter as a service provider especially for Korean people in Japan. However, their strategy is going to be to increase their Japanese user base gradually by offering services in Japanese. Kakao has, in fact, more revenue compared to its international competitors such as Whatsapp in East Asia, but it is not close to the giant LINE. LINE is one of the top five highest revenue making non-game applications in the world as of 2016.
Although there is a lot of competition in Japan when it comes to ride-sharing businesses, the Kakao app will most likely stand out due to its attractive and easy-to-use user interface. Many users are downloading the Kakao apps in both South Korea and Japan. If you are Korean, it is now going to be much easier to commute in Japan in your language!