Grab takes the road to e-payments for retail and services

GrabPay now lets users transfer credits to each other; merchants to be added by Q4

GrabPay now allows users to transfer credits between themselves via its in-app mobile wallet. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Ride-hailing operator Grab is making a play for a slice of the e-payment market here, announcing yesterday that it was extending its electronic wallet system to pay for more than just rides.

GrabPay now allows users to transfer credits between themselves via its in-app mobile wallet, and the Malaysian firm said it is working to get merchants on board.

It aims to work with more than 1,000 merchants in the retail, entertainment and food and beverage industries to accept mobile payments through GrabPay in the fourth quarter of this year.

Grab's primary targets are hawker stalls and small retail shops that do not accept cashless payments, said head of GrabPay Mr Jason Thompson.

"Rolling out peer-to-peer transfer first makes it easier for consumers. First, I am able to pay someone I trust, and the next step is paying a merchant with the same steps," he said.

Peer-to-peer transfers are already available for iPhone users, while those on Android will be able to do so from next Monday.

GrabPay credits are used to store value in customers' accounts to pay for rides.

Singapore is the first country where Grab is rolling out this e-payment option.

Users can send credits to each other by either keying in the receiver's phone number or by scanning a QR code on the receiver's phone. When merchant payments are rolled out later this year, users can pay by scanning a QR code at the outlet.

Grab's foray into the e-payment scene comes just a month after it opened up a feature for users to pay for street-hailed taxis through the app, which transport experts predicted was the first step in Grab's move to design a general e-payment system. The move was also taken as a hint as to the other revenue models Grab may pursue in light of the slim margins in the competitive ride-hailing market.

But it introduces yet another e-payment option to an already crowded and fragmented market, said analyst Quah Mei Lee, the Asia-Pacific industry principal of digital transformation at Frost & Sullivan.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called attention to this in his National Day Rally speech two weeks ago, when he made the call to the industry to "simplify and integrate" various e-payment options here.

"Grab might be trying to monetise its user base, which utilises its payments platform," said Ms Quah.

Mr Thompson said he believes Grab can drive mass adoption of mobile payments in Singapore and across South-east Asia as it is one of the most frequently used consumer apps here.

"Our wallets already exist in Singapore and are already being used everyday here. We're just allowing them to use it more," he said.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2017, with the headline Grab takes the road to e-payments for retail and services. Subscribe