By Tarmo Virki
TALLINN (Reuters) - Estonia's Bolt, a popular ride-sharing service in Eastern Europe and Africa, on Wednesday launched food delivery service in its home town of Tallinn, the nation's capital, and said it plans to roll out Bolt Food this year in South Africa, Latvia and Lithuania as well.
Bolt, which until early this year was called Taxify, has grabbed business from Uber mostly in major African cities and Eastern Europe. It now operates in 30 countries.
Bolt is a late entrant to the food delivery market, where a number of start-ups and other ride-sharing firms have operated for years. It plans to grab market share with lower prices for consumers and a better cut for delivery personnel, while building on its wide user base.
"This is a very competitive market," Jevgeni Kabanov, chief product officer at Bolt, told Reuters in an interview. "However, we have more than 25 million people around the world using Bolt and food delivery has been a popular request for quite some time."
Bolt rebranded earlier in 2019 to ensure the ride-hailing service is not confused with taxis and to represent its widening offering - it has launched scooter rentals in selected cities.
"I would say food delivery is the third big product launch for us. It fits very neatly into our strategy," Kabanov said.
In the first half of 2019, Uber said revenue from its Uber Eats almost doubled from a year earlier to $1.1 billion. But the sector has proved challenging for a number of start-ups as investment has declined from a peak in 2015.
Venture capitalists have in general pulled back from the sector amid concern over excessive competition and high valuations for companies that generally are not profitable.
In Tallinn, Bolt Food's main rival will be Helsinki-based food delivery service Wolt, which has raised $160 million since the beginning of 2018.
Bolt, founded in 2013, has raised more than $200 million from investors, including Daimler and China's Didi Chuxing Technology Co, among others.
(Reporting by Tarmo Virki; Editing by Dan Grebler)