When Didi Chuxing, China’s biggest ride-hailing app, launched its online grocery business six months ago, some operations employees shaved their heads to show their commitment. In Chengdu, a city of 16 million in the southwestern province of Sichuan, these employees worked until midnight, slept in cots in their office and toiled through China’s national holiday week in October, Didi employees told The Information. In a Didi-run grocery distribution warehouse in Chengdu hangs a banner with the slogan: “To change the world one more time, we have no choice but to win.”
The hard work shows how much pressure there is on corporate soldiers in China’s latest tech war. Investors expect that next year the competitors will burn through several billions of dollars—at least. For companies like Didi and two other Chinese tech titans—Meituan and Pinduoduo—that launched competing grocery services in recent months, fresh fruits and vegetables represent one of the last big untapped markets that is shifting online, buoyed by the Covid-19 pandemic.