It's just Grab now as ride-booking app expands, offers new services

GrabTaxi has rebranded itself as Grab and launched a new version of its app as it gears up to grab a larger share of the ride-booking market from rivals like Uber.

"We've grown over the years and we're now much more than a taxi app... It's about making sure one brand encapsulates all the different services," said its group chief executive Anthony Tan yesterday.

Grab was co-founded by Mr Tan in 2012 in Malaysia as a third-party app allowing commuters to book taxis, but has since expanded to offer chauffeured private cars under its GrabCar option, and motorcycle rides - GrabBike - in markets like Indonesia and Vietnam.

It has also moved into car-pooling, with the GrabHitch pilot in Singapore, and an on-demand courier service called GrabExpress in Thailand and the Philippines.

Mr Tan said the Singapore-based start-up will continue to invest aggressively in South-east Asia, with plans to expand in the region.

Grab says it has some 200,000 drivers and gets around 1.5 million bookings daily across 28 cities in six countries in South-east Asia.

Its biggest rival is the San Francisco-based Uber which, according to industry sources, has around 300,000 drivers on its platform in South-east Asia.

While Uber has a bigger global presence in 67 countries and funding of over US$8.6 billion (S$12.3 billion), Grab is looking to expand its footprint.

Last month, Grab announced a partnership with China's Didi Kuaidi, US-based Lyft and India's Ola, which will let its users book cars and taxis from these platforms. This function is expected to be rolled out later this quarter.

Grab has raised over US$700 million from investors, including Vertex Venture Holdings, a wholly owned subsidiary of Temasek, and Japanese telco and Internet giant Softbank Corporation.

Mr Tan said he expects several segments of the business to be profitable later this year.

As for whether the firm has plans to list publicly, he said: "It's always an option on the table."

Yesterday, Grab also launched a new version of its app, with features such as an automatic re-try if bookings do not go through, and a faster "live" driver-tracking. Based on a user's history, the app will also suggest pick-up and drop-off spots.

Separately, Grab started a pilot called GrabVenue last year. Under this, booking kiosks each with a tablet installed with the Grab app have been set up at around 20 hotels here. They allow people to book taxis or chauffeured cars without having to use a mobile phone.

• Additional reporting by Pang Xue Qiang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 29, 2016, with the headline 'It's just Grab now as ride-booking app expands, offers new services'. Print Edition | Subscribe