SINGAPORE - Super app Grab officially opened its new nine-storey headquarters on Thursday (Aug 11), as the company celebrated its 10th anniversary.
The 42,000 square metre office space at One-North business park will house some 3,000 staff and a research and development centre, as well as a new merchant centre to help small companies to grow. It also announced a US$1 million (S$1.37 million) GrabScholar programme to disburse scholarships and bursaries to students across South-east Asia.
The merchant centre will provide Grab’s small business partners with business consultations and operational support to expand their online presence, said co-founder and group chief executive Anthony Tan.
Mr Tan said that Grab is very optimistic about South-east Asia in the longer term, given the significant market opportunity and current under-penetration of digital services.
“But we are also pragmatic about the current realities of rising inflation and its direct impact on our business and our partners.
“This is prompting our consumers to expect more affordable services, and conversely, our driver and merchant-partners to expect higher net earnings,” he said, adding that this is why relentless innovation is urgently needed.
Grab has grown from a small ride-hailing platform - in the days when there was lower smartphone adoption in the region - to a leading super app in South-East Asia providing a range of services spanning food deliveries to fintech.
It is present in nearly 500 cities across eight countries. It also listed on the tech-heavy Nasdaq exchange in December last year, after a US$40 billion merger with special purpose acquisition company Altimeter Growth.
Reflecting on Grab’s 10-year journey, Mr Tan said the firm has had to adapt its business many times to changing market environments and the Covid-19 pandemic was one of its toughest periods.
“I am glad we not only managed to survive but have thrived along with our ecosystem,” he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, who graced the anniversary celebrations at the new headquarters, said Grab’s journey has been an inspiration to all, and Singaporeans in particular.
“It is a story that is familiar to us, because it is a story about the underdog succeeding against all odds and making the impossible possible,” he said.
DPM Wong noted that like Singapore, Grab started from humble beginnings and had to confront challenges along the way, such as a complex and fragmented South-east Asian market.
The firm also had to face down larger competitors, he noted. In 2018, Grab acquired the South-east Asian operations of Uber, its main competitor in the ride-hailing space. The deal also saw Grab expand its food delivery business to Singapore and Malaysia, while Uber took a 27.5 per cent stake in Grab.
Mr Wong also thanked the delivery riders and Grab staff for helping Singapore to get through the last two years of the pandemic.
Besides the new merchant centre, the firm also announced on Thursday a US$1 million programme to give over 2,000 scholarships and bursaries annually to students across South-east Asia.
Mr Tan said access to digital tools is a powerful way to ensure all South-east Asians can equally participate in and benefit from the rising digital economy, the same way its driver-partners learnt how to use their smartphone to earn an income a decade ago.
He added in his speech at the event that supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in thriving online is part of Grab’s long-term commitment towards inclusive growth and innovation for the digital economy.
Over 680,000 SMEs across the region joined GrabFood and GrabMart last year.
“This number will grow quickly, as the delivery of food and essentials becomes more and more integral to our customers’ lives,” he said. “In line with this, we are deepening our efforts to upskill our merchant-partners so that they can better ride the digital wave.”
Grab is also focused on developing hyperlocal technology to solve regional problems, such as its in-house map, GrabMaps, which will show the small alleys and side streets that conventional digital maps might omit.
This has helped to map over 800,000km of missing roads in South-east Asia, Mr Tan noted.
Moving forward, Grab is also fostering a strong pipeline of local tech talent, he said. The firm now has eight research and development centres in the region and in global tech hubs.