- Mark Angeles, senior expatriate editor, GNLM
Grab, the ridesharing taxi service that is accessed by use of a mobile phone application, has launched the beta trial of its service in Yangon. The Global New Light of Myanmar spoke to Cheryl Goh, Grab’s Group Vice President of Marketing, and asked her about the tech-focused service that is already serving seven countries in Southeast Asia.
• What is your company doing differently from other alternative taxi services already here such as Hello Cabs or Oway Ride?
Grab will offer a more efficient taxi booking platform. Our strong machine learning and data analytics capabilities have enabled greater efficiency over time. We are using big data in a significant way to map real-time customer demand and alert available drivers to head to these locations. This helps drivers to improve their earnings and also improve passengers’ ride arrival times.
We will continue to invest in technology to make the app experience more seamless – and more localised for Myanmar. Using Indonesia as an example, we’re improving our mapping, which is essential in a city like Jakarta where some street shops are not on the map – so regular maps often don’t work. Our mapping technology knows this and routes accordingly. By localising mapping, Grab can improve pickup times, recommend pickup and drop-off locations to passengers, and make it easy for passengers to search and select destination.
Our strategy is to create the best possible experience for drivers and passengers. We will focus on improving the quality of the vehicles, driver service and safety standards for taxis in Yangon. Grab has robust driver screening and training processes, including in-person verification and vehicle inspection, to ensure that taxis on the Grab platform are comfortable and well-maintained. For example, all our Grab drivers will offer air-conditioning in their taxis.
• Yangon has a severe traffic problem. Would the presence of Grab hurt or alleviate the traffic here?
As vehicle ownership grows and mass transit systems are still being developed, solving traffic congestion will require a long-term commitment – one that Grab is committed to. We wish to help solve the local transportation challenges in each city that we operate in and in Yangon, we are privileged to support the government’s plans to reform the public transport network, with a focus on taxis. We are heartened that the government is supportive of Grab’s plans to trial our taxi booking service in Yangon, and we will be actively collaborating with them.
By providing a more efficient taxi booking platform, Grab aims to make it easier for passengers to choose to book a taxi, rather than drive their own car or for taxi drivers to drive around looking for passengers – and reduce traffic congestion.
In addition, we aim to improve driver service and safety standards for taxis in Yangon, and enable taxi drivers to get more bookings and earn more with Grab. We are committed to work with the taxi industry and other transport stakeholders during our Grab beta trial, and work together to test and improve our taxi service to both drivers and passengers.
• Grab has already launched in Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines. What have you learned from those experiences?
Grab is in 41 cities in seven countries across Southeast Asia – Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and now Myanmar. Grab is the leading ride-hailing platform in Southeast Asia with 95 per cent market share in third-party taxi-hailing and 70 per cent market share in private vehicles across the region. The Grab app has been downloaded onto over 38 million mobile devices, and is the largest land transport fleet in Southeast Asia with over 780,000 drivers.
We are bringing our best practices from other countries to our service in Myanmar – and are committed to ensuring that we set the standards for the industry to follow. For example, we are the first ride-hailing company in the world to get ISO certification, which validates Grab’s quality management systems, such as the handling of passenger enquiries, driver screening and onboarding processes, internal governance, as well as products and service offerings.
What this means for consumers is that they can be assured of safer rides in more comfortable vehicles, and know that Grab drivers are rigorously screened and undergo best practice training to provide the best ride experience.
• Is Grab similar to Uber or Lyft?
The concept is similar in that these are all companies in the ridehailing space that offer on-demand transport services that can be booked via a mobile app. Lyft operates only in the US.
However Grab is unique amongst other ride-hailing companies that provide transport services in Southeast Asia. We were founded to improve the safety standards and trust that consumers had in taxis. This remains one of our core missions and we’re proud that 8 in 10 women surveyed said they think it’s safer to take a taxi with Grab.
We also take a tailored approach to every city we operate in. Other companies tend to lump “Asia” into one bucket – and replicate their service wholesale in new cities – but the continent is incredibly large and vastly diverse. Grab has local teams in every country, who understand the unique set of complex challenges of their home country.
Staying true to taking a tailored approach, we continuously aim to collaborate and align with local public agendas and understand how we can best serve cities. We’ve seen great work being done in Manila with our collaboration with the World Bank to provide Grab GPS data to the OpenTraffic platform. Through this we’ve made it possible for city governments to be able to identify and address congested hotspots, improve traffic flow, and plan for better infrastructure.
Working together to develop strong and purposeful regulation is very much live and progressing between Grab and all governments, and that our services are being viewed as a long-term solution in improving public transport in Southeast Asian cities. Governments have appreciated the approach we take and that’s why we were the first to be legalised in the Philippines and are the exclusive legal rideshare in Vietnam. We are heartened that the government is supportive of Grab’s plans to trial our taxi booking service in Yangon, and we will be actively collaborating with them.