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How Grab became a major transport provider in Philippines

A Malaysian technology company which came to the Philippines in 2013 turned into the largest transport service provider in the country in a span of five years.

Grab, which was established by young Malaysian businessman Anthony Tan as “My Teksi” app, jolted the transport sector across Southeast Asia, generated thousands of jobs and forced traditional taxi cabs to become more efficient.

From the transport sector, Grab is now expanding its reach to include food delivery, logistics and payment solutions.

How Grab became a major transport provider in Philippines
Grab Philippines country head Brian Cu
Brian Cu, one of the top Filipino technology entrepreneurs who helped establish successful unicorns such as PT Go-Jek Indonesia and Zalora Philippines, is the brains behind the dominant ride-hailing mobile app Grab in the Philippines.

As a co-founder of Go-Jek, Indonesia’s first unicorn, in 2010, Cu could have become multi-millionaire in Jakarta, but decided to return to Manila in 2012 to start other ventures.  He briefly served as the managing director of Zalora Philippines, before becoming the country head of Grab.

Cu, who studied Management Engineering at Ateneo de Manila University and Finance at the National University of Singapore, helped transform Grab into Southeast Asia’s leading ride-hailing platform which absorbed rival Uber last year.  Across Southeast Asia, Grab aims to provide critical transport solutions to 620 million people.

At Grab, Cu oversees operations for the major urban areas in the Philippines.  Aside from Metro Manila, Grab is present in Baguio City, Pampanga province, Bataan province, Subic Bay, Naga City, Cebu City, Iloilo City, Bacolod City, Tacloban City, Cagayan de Oro City, and Davao City.  Beyond transportation, it has recently expanded to food delivery through GrabFood and logistics through GrabExpress.

Cindy Stephanie Toh, country marketing head at Grab Philippines, said GrabPay would be relaunched in February 2019.  Grab is no longer just a ride-hailing or ride-sharing service provider, she said. 

“We have rolled out a lot of services.  We finally put out that message that we are ready to become the everyday app. We launched GrabFood [in 2018] and GrabExpress will roll out new features,” Toh said.

GrabFood now has more than 5,000 restaurant-partners, providing the largest online food delivery menu in Metro Manila.  Toh said the plan is to expand the network of restaurant-partners in 2019.

In his year-end message, Cu described 2018 as a year of great change and growth for Grab Philippines. 

“We have travelled over 920 million kilometers..and are incredibly humbled to have helped millions of passengers reach their destinations across cities and provinces in the Philippines. This result proves to us that we can make transportation safer and more convenient for the Filipino people through innovation and empowerment,” he said.

Cu said millions of passengers now benefit from the ridesharing economy.   Grab enabled its users to check the total time and budget they spent together on the road last year.

“Grab serves all types of users. We continue to introduce new services and improve existing ones on the platform to meet the needs of different users. Our passengers can select from a range of transport offerings - from budget options such as GrabTrike, GrabTaxi and GrabShare to more premium services such as GrabCar, GrabCar 6-seater and GrabCar Premium -  to get to their desired destinations,” he said.

Cu said that in the Philippines, an average Grab user spent about P7,000 in 2018.  The most loyal passengers, representing the top 5 percent of users, spent an average of P45,000 and took eight times more trips than the average user.  Some Grab passengers, in fact, discovered that they spent more than P100,000 aboard Grab vehicles last year.

Cu said ridesharing is still a cheaper alternative to owning a car, which includes monthly loan payments, fuel costs, toll and parking fees, maintenance, registration fees, and insurance.  A car owner, he said,  spends P20,000 monthly or P240,000 a year.

Some 60,000 driver-entrepreneurs are now serving nearly a million passengers daily, and most of them are accredited with Grab.

Cu said with the additional 30,000 slots approved by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board in late 2018, the ride-hailing sector’s reliability is expected to improve in 2019. 

“This will further reduce the need to own a car and will lead to more affordable rides as supply and demand reaches a more balanced state.  We continue to improve the quality of our services and further enhance app features and protocols as part of our 100-day plan, #SaferEveryday roadmap and #BetterEveryday campaign,” he said.

Cu, himself, offers free rides to Grab users from time to time to learn the situation on the ground.

He said Grab helped its driver-partners through various benefits such as fuel discounts at the height of the pump prices, life insurance and most recently HMO plans.  “We will continue to improve our technology and work with our driver-partners to uplift our overall service standards to bring you a better Grab experience,” he said.

“In 2019, Grab will continue to double down on safety by reinforcing features, protocols and existing government partnerships to ensure safer trips everyday. Expect to see more as we move into becoming your everyday app,” said Cu.

“Expect to see more surprises in 2019 as we continuously expand and modernize our transport solutions in more cities in the Philippines and grow our other suite of services to be the everyday app.  Our focus is clear - to use technology and innovation to improve the lives of millions of Filipinos. For 2019, we continue our commitment to bring seamless, better and safer Grab experience everyday,” said Cu.

Topics: transport service provider , Grab , Anthony Tan , “My Teksi” , Brian Cu
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