Grab CEO Anthony Tan: 'Tremendous competition' in Singapore's mobility business

Wong Casandra
Senior Reporter
Group CEO and co-founder Anthony Tan at the launch of GrabPlatform on 10 July, 2018. (PHOTO: Grab Singapore)

Grab is already operating in a market characterised by stiff competition from taxi companies and new mobility apps, said CEO and co-founder Anthony Tan on Tuesday (10 July).

The “tremendous competition” in Singapore’s mobility space will spur the ride-hailing company to continue innovating for its customers, according to Tan, who was speaking at a media interview after the launch of grocery delivery service GrabFresh and GrabPlatform, an open platform that allows partners to be incorporated into Grab’s app.

We have been barrel-tested ever since the day we started, whether it’s the taxi app wars…or throughout. We have grown and embraced competition – that is how we’ve gotten here. In fact, we love it, as it makes us innovate faster,” said Tan at Grab’s HQ in Marina One.

Tan’s comments come less than a week after the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) found that the merger between Grab and Uber – announced in March – had led to a “substantial lessening of competition” in the ride-hailing market. 

Uber had taken a 27.5 per cent stake in Grab along with a seat on the latter’s board as part of the merger deal.

In its provisional findings, the competition watchdog outlined a set of remedies in relation to the merger, as well as proposed fines to be imposed on both companies. Depending on a public consultation and its final findings, CCCS may require both companies to unwind the merger.

In response to a question about how CCCS’ findings will affect the company’s strategies in Singapore, Tan observed that the government “sees that Grab plays a key role” and said that he is “extremely confident” both sides can work out their differences.

“We are also one of the largest employees of engineering talent in the nation-state. We brought global talent (into Singapore). We will continue to work very closely with the government to encourage innovation and the startup eco-system in the region,” he said, noting that the company will submit its written representations on the merger to CCCS by 26 July.

Grab has been involved in a flurry of activities to expand its range of services in Singapore in recent months.

Apart from the merger, the company also introduced GrabCycle, a marketplace app for renting bicycles and e-scooters, and GrabFood, a food delivery app.

Despite the exit of two out of three bicycle-sharing partners, oBike and GBikes, in the past month, Tan said the company will “double down and invest more” in GrabCycle.

“It is all about partnerships. We don’t believe we can do everything ourselves,” he explained. “Grab has an obligation to make sure other start-ups also grow with Grab. Why shouldn’t we share the real estate that we have grown all this while?”

Among Grab’s verticals, GrabFood has been the fastest growing due partly to its market expansion from two to six countries.

“People will continue to use us (even) without promo codes because we create a very relevant service,” Tan said. “We are offering Grab Rewards and promos in GrabFood. After we acquire a customer once, we serve more services to the same customer.”

Among the initiatives to kickstart GrabPlatform, Grab will partner Southeast Asian grocery delivery provider HappyFresh to launch GrabFresh in July across three markets: Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia

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