Ride-hailing 'democratized' tech in Southeast Asia, Grab says

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 13 2018 09:13 AM

A Grab driver taxes a selfie during a Grab Academy event in Manila on June 26, 2018. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

SINGAPORE – Grab, which is expanding from ride-hailing to logistics and mobile payments, said it "democratized" technology by making smartphones useful for millions in Southeast Asia.

The Grab app has been downloaded over 100 million times in 8 Southeast Asian countries, serving a market valued at $25 billion, Grab founder and CEO Anthony Tan told reporters at the company's regional headquarters here.

"The beauty of Grab is that it has proven that it works very closely with the government in democratizing technology. We are one platform that allows for mobile internet to be pervasive all the way down into many driver’s hands," Tan said.

"I’m sure, whether it’s in Manila, or Cebu or in Davao, you can see that there are drivers who have never experienced smartphones until they’ve joined us," he said.

In the Philippines, Grab has parried complaints over canceled bookings and choosy drivers since it took over the operations of erstwhile rival Uber in April.

Grab also defended a P2 per minute charge, which regulators suspended and for which the company was fined P10 million.

Tan said Grab would address challenges in the Philippines as "painless" as possible to deliver the "perfect experience."

Grab founder and CEO Anthony Tan speaks to journalists at the firm's headquarters in Singapore. Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

PAIN POINTS

Grab is pouring "tremendous" resources on research and recently tapped data science and artificial intelligence to improve its service, Tan said.

A recent hire is 28-year-old Filipina market researcher Therese Cruz, who draws from her experience commuting in Manila.

Having experienced the "pain-points" of commuting in the Philippines gives "added value" to her work as a user-experience researcher for Grab's entire Southeast Asia operations, Cruz said.

"The reason why I wanted to be with Grab is because I really want to solve this current problem, I fully understand this problem because I experienced it," Cruz said.

Grab researcher Therese Cruz speaks to journalists at the firm's headquarters in Singapore. Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Grab's data science team is the biggest in Southeast Asia, Tan said.