Banma Network becomes unicorn company after first financing round
Banma Network Technology Co, the world’s largest solution provider for internet-based cars, raised over 1.6 billion yuan ($237 million) in its first financing round on Sept 13, 2018. With an estimated asset value of over $1 billion, it has made its way into the “unicorn company” categorization of companies (a unicorn company is generally a startup valued at more than $1 billion). This round of financing was led by SDIC Fund Management Company Ltd, and the funds raised will mainly be used in the introduction of high-caliber talents and the R&D of cutting-edge technologies for business expansion and opening-up, so to strengthen the leading role of the company in its field. Banma Network was co-established by SAIC Motor Corporation Limited (SAIC Motor for short) and Alibaba Group as an artificial intelligence (AI) based technology company focusing on the “integration of auto and internet”. In 2016, SAIC Motor and Alibaba launched the world's first internet-based vehicle equipped with a Banma smart system, which greatly drives the shifting of vehicles’ role from simple travel tools to intelligent mobility terminals. SAIC Motor has made remarkable achievements in intelligent connection technologies in recent years, especially with the launch of Roewe Marvel X equipped with the Banma 3.0 smart system. The car is the world's first mass produced intelligent-connected vehicle equipped with the function of self-parking. The fact that Banma Network has become a unicorn company represents the latest accomplishment of SAIC Motor in pushing forward independent innovation and the integration of internet technologies and the auto industry. It also signifies that SAIC Motor is accelerating its transformation to become an intelligent-connected mobility service provider.
Since establishing a sound mobility service platform is a major strategy of SAIC Motor in its innovative transformation, the company has been focusing on building such platforms to facilitate people’s mobility, car purchasing and using, and the vehicle logistics.
For people’s mobility, SAIC Motor has been accelerating the development of time-share car rental, short-term and long-term car rental, and online car-hailing businesses, and providing one-stop services that support making multiple orders at the same time, which meet the major needs of people for mobility. Its establishment of Global Car Sharing and Rental Co, currently the world’s largest company specializing in new-energy-vehicle sharing and rental businesses, is an important step of SAIC Motor in developing intelligent and eco-friendly mobility services. The company has businesses in 62 cities across the country, with 32,000 licensed cars operating in 13,000 outlets, and has 2.74 million members. It receives one order every 1.2 seconds on average. In addition, SAIC Motor will focus on online car-hailing businesses this year, which are directly connected with consumers and provide high-frequency services, in order to meet the diverse needs of consumers for mobility and provide them with safe, efficient, comfortable and convenient services.
Chexiang and Chexiangjia constitute a convenient service platform for car purchasing and using. Chexiang, launched by SAIC Motor in 2014, is an O2O (Online To Offline) e-commerce platform providing both online and offline one-stop services for customers from their selection, purchasing, using to the selling of a car, which is the first of its kind in the domestic auto market. In the first half of the year, Chexiang’s online members reached 4.8 million and nearly 110,000 vehicles were sold via the platform, making it one of the nation’s best e-commerce platforms in sales. Chexiangjia, an offline auto service provider owned by Chexiang, has opened nearly 1,900 stores in 120 domestic cities, and finished the Series B round of financing last year, with assets of more than 1 billion yuan.
In terms of the vehicle logistics, SAIC Motor’s Anji Logistics is the nation’s largest and one of the world’s leading third-party vehicle logistics service providers. With a logistics network covering 562 cities in China, it provides one-stop, intelligent and internet-based vehicle logistics services for major domestic and overseas automotive OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), component suppliers, 6,000 car dealerships and 6,000 garages. In the meantime, SAIC Motor has been developing express services to transform itself from a specialized vehicle logistics service provider into a goods transportation platform that is interconnected online and offline.
SAIC Motor designed a market-oriented organizational structure for its newly-established mobility service companies in the early stage of their startup, and has since been developing them through a market-oriented incentive mechanism and operation mode, to help them lay a solid foundation of development. In addition to Banma Network, SAIC Motor has also implemented an equity incentive mechanism among the managing teams and core personnel of its Global Car Sharing and Rental Co and Chexiang, and has raised funds through social financing for the two companies.
Moreover, SAIC Motor has set up the first AI lab in the auto industry this year based on the big data, cloud computing and various technological applications in the industry. The lab will not only focus on intelligent manufacturing and driving, but will also work on smart mobility to meet the diverse and personalized mobility needs of consumers and enhance the mobility services of SAIC Motor. In the future, SAIC Motor will continue to explore a wider and deeper integration of internet technologies and the auto industry, and speed up the transformation of itself into a comprehensive supplier of both mobility services and products, so as to provider more efficient, more individualized and more enjoyable mobility services for consumers.