Southeast Asian ride hailing firm Grab aims to become ‘superapp’ platform

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 July, 2018, 10:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 July, 2018, 2:10pm

Southeast Asia’s dominant ride-hailing company Grab has launched an open-platform strategy, allowing third party services including content providers to operate within its app as it aims to become an “everyday superapp”.

The open-platform, dubbed GrabPlatform, will allow more “highly used everyday services” to be incorporated into the Grab app via a suite of application program interfaces (APIs), the company said. The home screen has also been redesigned to give users easy access to new services and information when they require them.

The announcement made Tuesday confirms a South China Morning Post report in June that said the company would soon allow external service providers on its platform.

The in-app news feed will also display content from Yahoo, which is a content partner for Grab. The feed will include news, reviews and entertainment, including short videos and even games for Grab users.

The push towards becoming a platform of services as opposed to just offering ride-hailing is similar to the approach that Chinese internet giants have taken. Tencent’s WeChat, for example, has evolved from being a messaging app to offering everything from food delivery services, games, payments and even e-commerce.

Grab is also moving into the groceries space, partnering with Indonesia’s Happyfresh to launch an online-grocery delivery service in Jakarta, where the grocer will be able to tap Grab’s network of drivers for deliveries to customers. The service will be rolled out later to other cities where Grab operates.

Grab to open up its platform to third party services

“We want Grab to be the thing that eases all of your concerns, where you don’t have to worry about your wallet, don’t have to worry about whether you have your charger, where you’re going to get lunch or who’s going to do your groceries,” said Grab co-founder Tan Hooi Ling at the RISE conference in Hong Kong on Tuesday.

Tan said GrabPlatform will be focused on providing “everyday needs, not everything”.

Grab currently offers GrabPay, an e-wallet service as well as GrabFood, a food delivery service in several markets across Southeast Asia.

“We’ve always thought and acted like a platform. From the days of offering our technology as a booking platform for taxi operators, to providing a fleet of delivery drivers for e-commerce companies,” said Anthony Tan, Grab’s co-founder and chief executive.

Earlier this year, Grab launched its venture capital arm to invest in promising Southeast Asian start-ups that could help build up the company’s ecosystem of services, particularly in the areas of transport, logistics, food, payments, messaging and even mapping.

Firms which are part of Grab Ventures could be part of the platform of services, the company said.

Grab recently ran into regulatory troubles with Singapore’s antitrust watchdog, after the regulator found the recent merger of Grab and Uber’s Southeast Asian operations to be anticompetitive. Grab responded that the regulator’s proposed remedies were a case of “overreaching” and said it would respond to the findings by the specified deadline.