Despite early promise, China's on-demand bus services hit potholes on the road to profit

High costs – not a lack of customers – have forced promising on-demand bus service startups like DuduBus to shift their focus to corporate shuttle services 

In 2015, Liu Yixun resigned from Tencent, one of the most sought-after employers in China, and founded DuduBus with a group of friends to provide on-demand bus services. They believed the business had significant growth potential. “At that time, Didi Chuxing and Uber had already begun to offer car-hailing services in China. We thought bus-hailing must be the next hit, as there was no dominant player in this sector,” Liu said.

The entrepreneurs also gained their confidence from the urgent needs of bus commuters. During peak hours, buses in China get extremely crowded, especially in first-tier cities. A bus normally carries 100–200 passengers, which is about 11 people in one square meter of space. Car-hailing, while a big business in China, could not solve this problem because it is a costly alternative for bus commuters.

Liu thought that a chartered bus with customized routes – voted on through an app based on their popularity – might be the answer. Shenzhen-based DuduBus

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