20 March 2019
Grab co-founder and CEO Anthony Tan aims to provide financial services to the enormous unbanked population in Southeast Asia. Photo: Bloomberg
Grab co-founder and CEO Anthony Tan aims to provide financial services to the enormous unbanked population in Southeast Asia. Photo: Bloomberg

Grab boss reveals next target after Uber deal

A week after Singapore-based ride-hailing firm Grab Inc. announced it was acquiring its rival Uber Technology’s business in Southeast Asia, Grab co-founder and CEO Anthony Tan revealed to CNBC his next target in the region.

“It was something I dreamt about for sure,” Tan told the financial news channel, referring to his ambition to defeat the US-based competitor in the Southeast Asia market.

Tan admitted there was a debate about whether giving up 27.5 percent of Grab to Uber for the latter’s business in the region was the right amount. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi had once said that the stake was worth “several billion dollars”.

Tan went on to share his next target for Grab: the “many who are unbanked”. He was referring to people who don’t have a bank account.

The ride-hailing firm has been moving fast into the payment and financial business after receiving US$2.5 billion funding from Japanese conglomerate SoftBank and China’s Didi Chuxing last July.

The company won support for its GrabPay service from third-party merchants in Singapore last November, and since then, the e-wallet has been gaining steam across Southeast Asia.

As a further step to build its fintech platform, Grab has teamed up with Japan’s Credit Saison to create a joint venture called Grab Financial Services Asia, extending its service offerings to micro-loans and insurance options for Grab drivers and businesses that use its GrabPay services.

Grab serves eight countries in Southeast Asia, but Indonesia seems to be the top priority for its financial services.

“As we continue to invest in Indonesia, we are very confident now, [and] with the Uber Eats assets, we will also become the number one food player in this region. And then, as we continue to expand GrabPay, Grab Financial, that will expand throughout the region,” Tan told CNBC.

Indonesia’s homegrown ride-hailing service GoJek has also been investing in fintech targeting the country’s enormous unbanked population.

On Grab’s financial services push, Tan recognizes potential competitors from China: “I think Ant Financial, again another great company, for us, as we are all about working with many, many partners… If Ant Financial, or whoever, is another great partner, we are focused on that problem and on that segment of under-banked or invisible people that we can help and solve that problem.”

Considering that Grab has significant market power in the ride-hailing and food delivery sectors in crucial markets like Indonesia, Tan believes that it would be easier for the company to lure clients to its financial services through cross-promotion.

In the CNBC interview, Tan described what a day would look like for his ideal Grab consumer: “The minute they wake up, they book a car. The car comes and the guy has his car financed by Grab Financial. He or she then pays for lunch at a local noodle stall with GrabPay, zips between meetings using a Grab bike, then orders Grab food on the way home.”

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