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Grab Signals Shift in Strategy and Markets


By: Wilson Chua

Grab has a lot to celebrate these days. Grab hit 2 billion rides in less than 9 months. It is also on track to hit USD 1 billion in revenues by the end of the year. Grab also reported that its GrabFood grew 9x over the last 12 months. So, the question on everyone’s minds is: ‘What’s next?’

Not to disappoint, Grab announced three initiatives. These were what Anthony Tan, Grab’s Co-founder and Group CEO, said would amplify “economic value for all of Southeast Asia.”

  • Opening of their platform to partners (GrabPlatform),
  • Revamped user App (Everyday Superapp)
  • Added services such as GrabFresh, powered by Happy Fresh,


On the initiatives:
GrabPlatform is open to a ‘curated’ set of partners. In several interviews, both Anthony and Jerald Singh, Grab’s head of product emphasized that they are looking for partners that are the ‘best-in-class’ in each sector. These partners should ideally be offering services that are most relevant to consumers’ daily lives.

For the partners, they will have access to massive amounts of data collected from 2 billion rides by Grab. The immediate advantages come from tapping into Grab’s logistics support (Grab Deliveries) and FinTech (GrabPay). Grab also boast of one of the largest teams of data scientist from where AI and Machine learning can be leveraged to good use.

In a thinly veiled reference to Amazon’s Everything Store, Grab’s Everyday Super App is scheduled to be rolled out in Asia Pacific and will feature newsfeeds from Yahoo, and curated content that are selected using ‘AI-similarity’ and “user preference”. It also contains casual games that keep users entertained while in a Grab ride.

The third development is the partnership with Happy Fresh to roll out GrabFresh which brings the promise of groceries being delivered within 2 hours. It is in Beta in Jakarta and will be rolled out to Thailand and Malaysia by the end of 2018.

Remember Michael Porter’s competitive framework dealing with the threat of new entrants? Grab seems to want to deepen its relationship with its users. And in doing so, their initiatives are set to disrupt several industries. Here are some industries the new strategies might affect:

Banking and Insurance (Fintech)
Already GrabPay, a mobile wallet solution, could one day disrupt the overseas remittance markets. Credits can be bought in Singapore and conceivably, could be redeemed in the Philippines. This could bypass monetary controls and remittance fees – depending on how regulatory environments deal with this. Grab also partnered with Chubbs for Driver insurance. Currently this arrangement covers Singapore only, but if Grab rolls this out to the rest of Asia Pacific, Insurance incumbents will be suddenly threatened by Grab’s economies of scale.

In addition, the wealth of data collected from mobile wallet transactions and micro loans can further enhance Grab’s position as a partner of choice. AI and machine learning need these big datasets to create viable models/predictions.

Media and Advertising
It looks as though the SuperApp revamp is aimed at gaining more ‘eyeballs’ and Grab can monetize these. As users flock to the small screen rather than the big screens (TV etc.), Grab might use its size and clout to get a sizeable share of the advertising pie.

Food and Travel Industries
A traveler to a new city might want to check out the nearby popular restaurants. Using Grab’s SuperAPP, he or she could be taken directly to the listed popular restaurants with just one click.

This feels like a worthy competitor to TripAdvisor and the like. Then there’s GrabFresh that targets the 20-25% of family budgets spent on food.

For Grab to succeed, its users will have to take to the revamped interface. It is unclear that this would be so. It remains to be seen how its users weigh the added stickiness versus the longer wait times and driver cancellations that currently plague its ecosystem. Then again, there is the expected competition from the likes of Go-Jek. Would Go Jek be the David to the Goliath in Grab?

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