We speak to Grab’s group vice president of marketing and ConnecTechAsia Summit speaker Cheryl Goh on innovation, super apps and more.
1) Grab has expanded beyond transportation to include financial services, food delivery and logistics over the past six years. With the recent announcement of Grow with Grab, will financial services eventually take priority over other services in time to come?
Growing into financial services, food and parcel deliveries is part of our goal to serve the everyday needs of our customers as Southeast Asia’s leading super app. At the same time, we’re doing it so that we can expand the opportunities we provide to the millions of micro-entrepreneurs on our platform. The ecosystem that we’ve built is self-reinforcing. For example, when a customer pays for a GrabFood order with GrabPay, he or she earns points with GrabRewards, which motivates them to use GrabPay for rides and other services on the Grab platform. This ecosystem and the stickiness it creates helps to give us the traction we need to become the everyday super app. Hence we’re focused on growing all our verticals.
But ultimately, the north star for Grab is driving Southeast Asia forward – solving the big whale problems in this part of the world. We launched Grow with Grab because saw a huge untapped opportunity for Grab Financial to support the region’s entrepreneurs who are less able to access traditional financial institutions. MSMEs comprise over 90% of the region’s economy yet two thirds cite business funding and financing as their biggest problem. With Grow with Grab, we’re giving MSMEs access to safe, secure, and affordable financial services, which in turn, allows them to pursue their dreams.
2) As one of Grab’s earliest team members, what do you think is key to driving innovation in the industry?
Innovation at Grab has always been about finding creative solutions to address a local problem, need, or pain-point. We never build tech for tech’s sake. And what has set us apart from the very beginning, ever since our early days of MyTeksi, is our focus on being relentlessly hyperlocal. When we first started out, a lot of taxi drivers didn’t own a smartphone, much less know how to use one. Our team knocked on car windows, sat with drivers, and taught them how to use one. How Grab took off really came down to grit and willpower!
Seven years on and this is still what drives us. We put boots on the ground, speaking to people to understand their pain points. This is how we deliver innovation that is truly impactful. For example, by spending time on the ground in Jakarta, we realized that Grab bikers, wearing their official green uniforms, tend to gather in camps. This meant passengers had to go through a large group of GrabBikes, checking license plates and looking for their driver.
The other pain point was that, when bikers get a job, they’d look at their phone, stash it in their pocket, then start driving to the pick-up point. With their phone out of reach, oftentimes, drivers find out too late that the passenger had cancelled the booking. The solution? We digitized street-hailing through GrabNow, allowing passengers walk up to any GrabBike driver to book a ride. It was a win-win: for passengers, no more waiting time and struggling to look for their ride; for drivers, they’re guaranteed a job, they no longer have to drive to the passenger, and it removes the cancellation pain point.
3) Grab is on a quest to digitize Southeast Asia with Grab Ventures. What are your thoughts on the regional tech ecosystem and its potential?
Southeast Asia will become the world’s fourth-largest economy by 2030. With this economic prosperity, comes a new generation of middle-class consumers who leapfrogged to mobile and are entirely comfortable with technology. In the future, all companies from established financial institutions to fledgling startups will become tech companies and come onboard the region’s growing tech ecosystem.
Launching Grab Ventures advanced two goals. Firstly, it’s about paying it forward. During our myTeksi days, when we were still knocking on taxi windows around Kuala Lumpur there were partners who believed in us and gave us the support we needed to sustain our business. Today, we want to do the same and help other startups achieve their dreams.
Secondly, it helps us expand our ecosystem. Grab Ventures Velocity is an accelerator program under Grab Ventures targeted at helping growth-stage startups expand across Southeast Asia by allowing them to leverage Grab’s vast footprint, technical and market-specific operational expertise, varied ecosystem of products, such as GrabPay and GrabRewards, and network of microentrepreneur-partners. Since launching in November last year, we have already witnessed promising results, with some of the startups we picked seeing 70 percent growth in their business after being featured on the Grab app.
This in turn, benefits us by supporting our goal of evolving into an everyday app. From Day 1, we realised that partnerships were the fastest and most effective way to scale quickly. By nurturing the next generation of tech unicorns in the region, we can create a win-win situation where we can offer quality services and products to our users while granting our partners access to millions of consumers who already rely on the Grab app on a daily basis.
4) How close is Grab to its goal of becoming a super app?
Because of our strong partnerships, we are the leading and only true regional super app, with multiple services in multiple markets. We are the super app with the most number of users. To date, the Grab app has 144 million downloads and we are present in 336 cities in 8 countries. And according to third-party benchmarks, we are number one in Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and other markets for ride-hailing and the only company with payments license in all major Southeast Asian countries.
GrabPlatform, our open platform strategy, is a true differentiator. It allows us to scale efficiently through partnerships. GrabPlatform also allows our partners to take parts of our ecosystem to help them scale their business – making our services like GrabPay or GrabExpress more ubiquitous.
If 2018 was the year of partnerships, 2019 is the year of execution. Last year, we signed partnerships with Booking, Microsoft, Ping An Good Doctor and more. This year we will execute on those partnerships, rolling out more services to our users, and more opportunities to our micro-entrepreneurs.
5) You will be speaking at ConnecTechAsia Summit 2019. What do you think will be the most important takeaway for your audience?
This year, the topic I’ll be speaking on is ‘Solving for Southeast Asia’. This will not only touch on how tech companies can solve immediate pain points, but the role they can play in shaping the future of the region.
Southeast Asia is at an inflection point in its history as it modernises at an unprecedented rate. Yet infrastructure, safety and financial inclusion are not given. Many of the region’s best and brightest are returning home to build a better future for generations to come. And many new and exciting new tech companies are emerging on the scene. If anything, I hope that this session will sow the seeds for discussion among the audience on how technology can be applied to solve Southeast Asia’s biggest problems and improve the quality of life for 650 million people.
For more on how Grab will apply the best technology to solve some of Southeast Asia’s biggest problems and tech’s opportunity and obligation to drive impact at scale, join Cheryl at her talk, ‘GRAB: Solving for Southeast Asia’ at ConnecTechAsia2019 Summit, Day 1, 18 June at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. View the Summit Programme here.