Driving to profit: Singapore-based ride-hailing app Grab rebrands to reflect growing services

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 January, 2016, 5:39pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 January, 2016, 7:03pm

Singapore-based ride-hailing app Grab expects some of its services to turn a profit this year as it continues to broaden its portfolio, a trend symbolised by its official rebranding today, according to CEO Anthony Tan.

Grab, previously known as GrabTaxi, launched an updated app with an improved user interface. as before, it lets users hail taxis, cars and even motorbikes in six Southeast Asian countries including Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

“Certain verticals are moving to break even and become profitable this year,” Tan told the South China Morning Post on Thursday during a media event to announce its rebranding.

He declined to specify which services, or reveal when the company expects to be operating in the black.

Grab is now focusing on shoring up its user base and improving its matching service for drivers and customers, he said.

Tan said the company decided to change its name and logo as the name GrabTaxi no longer encapsulates the variety of services its offers users.

In the new logo, parallel but curving lines spell out the word “Grab”. It was inspired by roadways and symbolises the new journey the company wishes to take in parallel with its drivers, users, society and employees, according to a press release provided by the company.

China’s market-leading car-hailing app Didi Kuaidi, which is engaged in an ongoing war with San Francisco-based Uber Technologies, rebranded to Didi Chuxing last year for the same reason.

Chuxing is Putonghua for “commute”, representing its car-pooling and other services as it moves to shake off the negative stigma of being associated with “illegal taxi services”.

Didi invested in Grab last August in a US$400 million funding round. Other investors include SoftBank and China Investment Corporation (CIC).

Didi also partnered with US-based Lyft and India’s Ola as it effectively sought to strike alliances with Uber’s major rivals in a number of foreign markets.

The strategic partnership it entered into last month with Grab, Ola and Lyft allows users of each company’s app to book rides in other markets using the respective apps of each of the partners.

Tan said that this cross-company service will be rolled out “later this year”, without nailing down a specific date.

Although Grab hails from Singapore, it has set down roots in China. Its research and development centre in Beijing now has 20 engineers working on improving its platform, according to Arul Kumarevel, vice president of engineering at Grab.

The company has similar centres in Seattle and Singapore, with over 100 engineers spread across the three locations.

Grab was founded in 2012 by Anthony Tan and co-founder Tan Hooi Ling.