Vietnamese firm pours $100 million into local ride-hailing app

By Thanh Le   April 1, 2018 | 08:54 pm PT
The move follows rival Grab's takeover of Uber's Southeast Asia operations.

A Vietnamese transport company has invested $100 million in local ride-hailing app Vivu, according to a statement issued on Saturday.

Nguyen Tri Dung, director of Phuong Trang, said he had always wanted to invest in a so-called ‘made in Vietnam’ product, and Vivu, as a startup, was lacking the funds and human resources to realize its potential and flourish. The $100 million investment is a win-win for both sides, he said.

The now-Vato app in its previous incarnation on Google Play. Photo by VnExpress

The now-Vato app in its previous incarnation on Google Play. Photo by VnExpress

Vivu founder Tran Thanh Nam said the app has rebranded a month earlier than planned in an apparent bid to take advantage of rival Grab's recent aquisition of Uber.

Now known as Vato, Dung said that what sets it apart from other ride-hailing services like Grab and Uber is how the software functions as an e-commerce platform, allowing users to choose different vehicle options, not just limited to one. Vato also has a price bargaining system, a feature absent in other similar apps, he added.

Vivu debuted in Vietnam on March 2016 under the name FaceCar, and received widespread attention after a Vietnamese expat in Germany offered to invest $1 billion in the app. However, the following year, Tran Thanh Nam called the investment a 'sham' and subsequently canceled the deal.

On March 23, ride-hailing firm Uber Technologies Inc announced that it had agreed to sell its Southeast Asian business to bigger regional rival Grab, marking the U.S. company’s second retreat from an Asian market. Just one day after the news of Uber’s departure from Vietnam was announced, the number of downloads for the now-Vato app skyrocketed to twice its previous peak, according to founder Tran Thanh Nam. 

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