InDriver emerged in 2012 in Yakutsk, a Siberian city where the average yearly temperature is several degrees below freezing. During one cold spell, local taxi companies colluded to almost double fares and the locals responded by creating an online social network group, where passengers entered a destination and what they were prepared to pay, and drivers accepted or started bargaining.

As the social media group expanded, local IT entrepreneur Tomsky noticed the success, and struck a deal with the founders to move the services into an app to roll out across Russia’s regions. The company now has 5 million users in Russia, where it competes with market leader Yandex.Taxi and Israel’s Gett in bigger cities.

The first few months of operations in 13 cities in Mexico, Peru, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala and El Salvador have proved successful, but has brought competition from Uber, Brazil’s Easy Taxi Servicos SA and Spain’s Cabify, Tomsky said. He declined to disclose further details on the company’s planned U.S. expansion.

One thing Tomsky won’t do is spend heavily on traditional marketing. In Mexico’s city of Saltillo, InDriver brought diamonds from Yakutsk and offered people who shared its social-network posts a chance to win the precious stones. Tomsky says inexpensive public relations campaigns like the one in Mexico feed social media posts and raise brand awareness at a fraction of the cost of classic advertising.