Grab driving cashless payments in Singapore

Grab, which has greatly expanded its presence in the region, is turning its sights on the finance industry, and its president Ming Maa is confident that Singapore will lead the region in mobile and cashless payments.
Grab, which has greatly expanded its presence in the region, is turning its sights on the finance industry, and its president Ming Maa is confident that Singapore will lead the region in mobile and cashless payments.ST FILE PHOTO

Firm confident Republic will buy into its innovation as it sets sights on disrupting finance services

Singapore is likely to soon become Grab's largest market in terms of cashless payments, said company president Ming Maa yesterday.

The ride-hailing firm, which has greatly expanded its presence in the region, disrupting traditional players in the process, is now turning its sights on the finance industry.

Mr Maa told a forum yesterday: "Singaporeans recognise the value of cashless payments, they are used to using Nets, to using cashless payments for taxis."

There has been a concerted effort to push payment innovation here, with systems like the recently introduced PayNow, which lets users transfer money to each other using mobile phone or NRIC numbers.

Experts have noted that Singapore still remains largely a cash- based economy as there is easy access to cash, and it still takes time to adopt new systems.

Despite these factors, Mr Maa is confident that Singapore will lead the region in mobile and cashless payments. Apart from the tight race to the top in the ride-hailing space across South-east Asia, Grab is also focusing on disrupting the financial services industry.

"Payments and financial services will be important for us in the next five years. If we're able to replace cash with any mobile solution that is much more efficient and saves money for the consumer and driver, everyone will be happy," said Mr Maa, who was speaking at the Asian Venture Capital Journal Private Equity & Venture Forum at The Westin Singapore.

MORE EFFICIENT AND COST-SAVING

Payments and financial services will be important for us in the next five years. If we're able to replace cash with any mobile solution that is much more efficient, and saves money for the consumer and driver, everyone will be happy.

MR MING MAA, president of Grab, on what makes cashless payment attractive.

The firm has now placed a time frame on that ambitious goal as it works on making GrabPay - its digital payment platform - more attractive. The idea is to become a regional mobile wallet and payments service, as Bloomberg noted last month.

Mr Maa said GrabPay is "the largest global payment system across this region". Grab has about 50 million customers on its platform, he added, with a large proportion on the payment system.

Other plans reportedly include loans, electronic money transfer and money-market funds.

Mr Maa also noted that consumers need a strong reason to start using mobile payments.

"A lot of companies aspire to be global payment companies and a key lesson I've learnt is that you have to have a compelling core-use case, in order to drive payments."

He noted that Apple Pay and Android Pay have yet to flourish because they lack such an attraction, despite their ubiquity.

"There's no driving need for these services. What we found is, in developing markets like China and India, transportation and ride-sharing have always been one of the largest reasons for mobile payments because of how frequent that engagement is.

"The more you drive engagement, the more frequent the behaviour, the more you convert the consumer from (using) cash."

Mr Maa said his firm is merely doing what it is focusing on, listening to the needs of its consumers.

"What we hear from our customers and drivers is the need for better financing and access to modern banking services that they can't typically get. Everything we do is to optimise the experience and service to customers."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2017, with the headline 'Grab driving cashless payments in S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe