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Anthony Tan and Tan Hooi Ling: Moving in to Grab opportunities

Mr Anthony Tan (left), 34, started Grab with co-founder Tan Hooi Ling, 32, in 2012. The company now has a presence in six countries.
Mr Anthony Tan (left), 34, started Grab with co-founder Tan Hooi Ling, 32, in 2012. The company now has a presence in six countries. PHOTOS: BLOOMBERG

It started out in a Kuala Lumpur warehouse in 2012. Today, Grab is the biggest competitor to Uber - the world's most valuable start-up - in South-east Asia.

The fight recently grew more intense after Uber sold its Chinese business to local rival Didi Chuxing, giving it more firepower to focus on other growth markets. Grab still has the upper hand, with a presence in 31 cities in six countries, while Uber is active in 16 South-east Asian cities.

Grab co-founder Anthony Tan told Bloomberg last month: "Didi did whatever it takes to win. In our case, we will do whatever it takes to win."

It means taking a "multi-modal approach", he told The Straits Times.

"For example, there aren't enough taxis in Singapore during peak hours and services like GrabCar or GrabHitch add more drivers on the roads. And we are looking into self-driving vehicle technologies to cater to under-served areas."

While transportation is at the core of its business, cashless payment is a big part of growth plans. Grab has the highest-frequency mobile transaction platform in South-east Asia.

"This gives us the perfect opportunity to develop GrabPay as a pan- South-east Asia mobile payment platform," Mr Tan said, noting that fewer than 10 per cent of people in South-east Asia own credit cards.

The recently launched GrabPay Credits allows customers to store value in their accounts to pay for rides. "We are building a payment platform that now has locally preferred options... and have strategic partnerships that will allow customers to use GrabPay as a universal payment platform at retail malls, cinemas and supermarkets in future," he said.


Ultimately, he added, the firm is most proud of how it has helped to better lives. "We are creating jobs and income opportunities. We have over 500,000 drivers across South-east Asia... After joining Grab, our drivers see at least a 35 per cent increase in their daily incomes."

It is also nurturing engineering talent, Mr Tan noted.

"The scale and complexities of the work that we do from this region are unheard of and challenges our tech team every day. We have been leading with local innovations all along - and global competitors are playing catch-up."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 05, 2016, with the headline 'Moving in to Grab opportunities'. Print Edition | Subscribe