Vietnam's Mai Linh seeks Japanese bus partnership as competition hots up
By Nguyen Tuan Anh
HANOI, NNA - Mai Linh Group, one of the major taxi and bus companies in Vietnam, is seeking Japanese investors to support its plan to expand deluxe bus services nationwide as well as connect them to five neighbouring countries.
Revealing this to NNA in an exclusive interview on Nov. 20, Ho Huy, president of Mai Linh, said it would need investments to develop infrastructure and logistic facilities so that it could expand its bus network with routes linking to China, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar.
Mai Linh began running its first Japanese deluxe-style bus service in Vietnam on Oct. 14 under a joint venture with Japanese bus operator Willer Inc. The service plies between the two northern cities of Hanoi and Thanh Hoa, which is located some 120 kilometers south of the capital.
Huy is banking on the Mai Linh–Willer bus "to bring Japanese Omotenashi style of service and safety standard" as it aims to set a new benchmark in bus transportation in Vietnam.
Under their joint venture signed in 2018, the two companies would be building the infrastructure to run express bus routes between Ho Chi Minh City–Can Tho and satellite cities in the Mekong Delta.
Apart from operating taxis, Mai Linh has been running private bus services all over Vietnam since 1993. The company has been diversifying its business in the face of competition from ride-hailing taxi and motorcycle services in recent years.
One provider is Singapore-based Grab Holdings Inc. which operates in eight Southeast Asian countries. In response, Mai Linh launched cab and motorbike hailing on its app in 2017.
Grab is also eyeing the growing bus market. For a start, it launched a bus service running between Tan Son Nhat Airport in Ho Chi Minh City and Ba Ria Vung Tau Province in October.
“We are still under the testing stage for intercity buses and expect to have city buses running before the end of 2019”, a Grab spokeswoman told NNA in a phone interview.