Ming Maa, president of Grab
Grab’s goal is not to become Asia’s Uber but to become Asia’s biggest platform that enables its users to enjoy just about any service they may need in their everyday lives, said Ming Maa, president of Singapore-based ride-hailing platform provider Grab.
“Mobility means much more than ride-sharing because mobility is really about helping consumers get closer to the things that you care about,” Maa said at the 19th World Knowledge Forum in Seoul on Friday. “Moving people from job to job, from one social class to another … is much closer to our heart, to what we hope to accomplish for Grab.”
Founded in 2012, Grab is a Singapore-based platform company that started as a ride-sharing and ride-hailing business and then expanded into grocery, meal, and parcel delivery services as well as fintech business. The super app is now used by more than 100 million people and partners with about 7 million drivers across 225 cities in eight countries in Southeast Asia. The mobility platform also recently crossed the 2 billion ride threshold.
Maa attributed its rapid success in the region to close partnerships with best startups and micro-entrepreneurs like drivers, as well as big data.
Partners are the biggest competitiveness of Grab, Maa said. Without its partners, it would be very challenging to serve consumers in the region with a multitude of religions and a multitude of different cultural norms, as well as different notions of major transportation - a car in Singapore, a motorcycle in Jakarta, a tuk-tuk in Bangkok, and an open shuttle in Manila, said the company’s president.
“We now have over 110 million consumers transacting on Grab. And the more that we can open our platform and enable other innovative startups to access these consumers, the better for the entire ecosystem,” Maa added.
The company recently joined hands with China’s biggest healthcare service platform Ping An Good Doctor to make a foray into the healthcare market in Southeast Asia next year. “The entire notion of partnership with Ping An Good Doctor is to bring telemedicine and medical consulting services to the digital era, whereby you can now use Grab to access the best doctors across the region,” Maa said.
There is only one doctor for every 5,000 people in Indonesia, so the availability of healthcare services is very challenging, according to Maa. “If you need certain OTC (over-the-counter) drugs or pharmaceuticals, then Grab will deliver those services and products to you, without having to leave your home.”
He also said the company’s wealth of data has played and will play a key role in revolutionizing Grab into the online-to-offline app that offers services touching broader aspects of daily life.
“We have an intense and immense wealth of information around traffic conditions, around mobility, around where individuals are traveling, … around how consumers are purchasing,” said Maa, adding that the company contributes a lot of these data on traffic to institutions for better city planning and better mobility solutions in the region.
Thanks to its unrivaled position in Southeast Asia and its ambitious vision, Grab has so far raised a total $6 billion from various investors across the world including Japan’s Softbank, China’s Didi Chuxing, Japan’s Toyota, and Korea’s Hyundai Motor and Naver. The valuation of Grab that also acquired Uber’s operations in Southeast Asia earlier this year is estimated at about $11 billion, according to market experts.
Earlier last week, Microsoft announced it has decided to make a strategic investment in Grab without disclosing its investment size. Under the deal, the two companies will work together to upgrade Grab services with big data, AI and machine learning technologies.
In particular, Grab aims to develop a passenger-driver verification system using Microsoft’s facial recognition technology and AI-backed automatic translation service using Microsoft’s natural language processing technology, Maa said.
The president also expected Microsoft’s AI and machine learning technologies would help Grab integrate its tremendous data “into a cohesive view of consumers” and “provide consumers perfect experience every time.”
To make Grab’s extensive mobility services more accessible, the company will also reinforce its financial services. “What’s underpinning all of these (Grab services) is our financial services platform, which is built around mobile payments,” Maa said. “Financial services are the foundation for solving the second and third forms of mobility - true economic and social mobility.”
One of the biggest challenges in Southeast Asia is that the vast majority of consumers still purchase goods and services using cash, Maa said, adding that Grab is building “the region’s largest mobile payment to have all of these mobility services work seamlessly and enable more people and more businesses to transact to purchase goods and services without having to use cash.”
Grab, started as a social enterprise, has been seeking solutions for everyday problems consumers in Asia encounter. “It captures the notion that you can do good. And by doing good and solving problems for society, then you can create a very large business around that,” Maa said. Grab’s transition into an online-to-offline app with enhanced social function is a way to create sustainable business in Southeast Asia, he added.
“The notion of serving our customers more deeply and in a more engaging way is core to everyone,” Maa said.
By Chung Ji-sung and Lee Ha-yeon
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