Grab app to feature public transport options in coming months

(From left) Grab co-founder Tan Hooi Ling, Ascendas-Singbridge deputy group chief executive Manohar Khiatani, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat and Grab chief executive Anthony Tan at the groundbreaking ceremony for Grab's new headquarters. PHOTO: GRAB

SINGAPORE - Ride-hailing company Grab will be introducing a public transport planner feature in its application here which users can tap to see travel options which include buses and trains.

This is in addition to the firm's existing private-hire car and taxi services.

Announcing the feature on Friday (March 29), Grab said it is looking to have users pay for public transport trips via its app as well.

The feature is likely to make its debut in the Republic within the next two months.

A similar trip planner was introduced in Indonesia three days ago. However users there do not have the option yet to pay for public transport through the Grab app.

When asked if users switching to public transport would impact Grab's private-hire and taxi booking services, the firm said ride-hailing is not the ultimate solution to any city's transport problems.

"Ultimately we want to serve the customer any way they want to get from point A to point B," said Grab's marketplace and shared mobility head Ngiam Xin Wei.

Grab is not the first ride-hailing firm to include such a feature. Uber added public transport options to its app in Denver in the United States in January 2019 as part of a trial with Israeli transit data firm Moovit.

Singapore University of Social Sciences transport economist Walter Theseira said ride-hailing firms are realising that the market for point-to-point transportation is "fundamentally limited".

"But the market for a service that addresses all your transport and other needs is much bigger," he added.

Grab held a groundbreaking ceremony on Friday for its new $181.21 million headquarters at business district one-north.

Located along Media Link, the 42,310 sq m building is expected to be completed by the end of 2020 and will house the firm's largest research and development centre.

With the new headquarters - expected to replace Grab's four existing corporate offices here - the company's workforce in Singapore will double to about 3,000, said Ms Ong Chin Yin, who heads the firm's people operations.

At the event, Grab chief executive and co-founder Anthony Tan also announced it is launching the second round of its start-up accelerator programme.

This year's round will run from June to August and focus on helping farming start-ups as well as small businesses from South-east Asia. Applications close on May 15.

"Grab has been very fortunate, and it is our duty and our obligation to grow other start-ups," said Mr Tan.

The ride-hailing giant, which operates in more than 300 cities in eight countries in the region, earlier this month said it had secured $2 billion in funding from the SoftBank Vision Fund to expand its services.

It also announced on March 20 that it is rolling out credit services and loans as part of its push into the financial services sector.

Speaking at the event on Friday, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said that in the digital economy, technology companies such as Grab play an important role in bridging the gap between digital and physical services.

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