MUMBAI (Reuters Breakingviews) - Silicon Valley investor Altimeter Capital has sketched a handy roadmap for speeding hot Asian technology companies to overseas public markets. Southeast Asian ride-hailing-to-delivery-to-payments group Grab is listing in New York via a combination with a blank-cheque firm. It’s the largest so-called SPAC merger, with a structure that cushions the SoftBank-backed company’s amped-up $39.6 billion equity valuation.


Grab Holdings Inc., commonly known as Grab, is a Singaporean multinational ride-hailing company headquartered in Queenstown, Singapore.[13][14] In addition to transportation, the company offers food delivery and digital payments services via a mobile app. It now operates in the Southeast Asian countries of Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, and the East Asian country of Japan.[15] It is Southeast Asia’s first “decacorn” (a startup with a valuation of over US$10 billion).[16][17]

Formerly MyTeksi
Type Private[1][2]
Founded June 2012; 8 years ago[3] (as GrabTaxi)
Founders Anthony Tan, Tan Hooi Ling
Headquarters one-northQueenstown, Singapore[4]
Area served
8 countries, 351 cities and metropolitan areas[5][6][7][8]
Key people
  • Anthony Tan (Co-founder & CEO)
  • Ming Maa (President)
  • Tan Hooi Ling (Co-founder & COO)[9]
Products Mobile app
Services Vehicle for hire
Delivery (commerce)
Decrease US$-82.8 million (2016)[10]
Number of employees
6,000 (2019)[11][12]




The idea of creating a taxi-booking mobile app for Southeast Asia, similar to those being pioneered in the US, first came from Anthony Tan (陈炳耀Chen Bingyao)[20] while he was at Harvard Business School. Motivated to make taxi rides safer in Malaysia, Tan launched the “My Teksi” app in Malaysia in 2012 together with Tan Hooi Ling, another Harvard graduate. MyTeksi was started with an initial grant of US$25,000 from Harvard Business School and Anthony Tan’s personal capital.[21][3][18][22]

Early expansion[edit]

GrabTaxi expanded to the Philippines in August 2013,[23] and to Singapore and Thailand in October of the same year.[24] In 2014, Grab in partnership with HDT Holdings, introduced 100 BYD e6 electric taxis in Singapore to form the biggest e-taxi fleet in Southeast Asia.[25] In 2014, GrabTaxi further continued its growth and expansion to new countries: first launching in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam in February, and Jakarta in Indonesia in June.[26][27] In May 2014, the company launched GrabCar[28][29] as an alternative form of transportation that uses personal cars instead of taxis through a licensed partner in an effort to overcome the lack of public transportation during peak hours.[30] In November 2014, GrabTaxi launched its first GrabBike service in Ho Chi Minh City as a trial service.[31] GrabTaxi initially applied for financial grant from Khazanah Nasional, the sovereign wealth fund of the government of Malaysia. However, long internal checks and processes had caused Khazanah did not agree on a deal.[32] It was the Singapore government investment fund Temasek that had agreed to finance US$10 million into Grabtaxi. In the same year, the company moved its headquarter from Malaysia to Singapore.[33] By 2015, GrabBike’s motorcycle service rides had spread throughout Vietnam and Indonesia. GrabBike also provides medical insurance for their passengers and drivers.[34][35] In February 2015, the company launched GrabCar+ (a service that provides a fleet of higher-end cars) in the Philippines.[28]

Rebranding and expansion of transportation services[edit]

In January 2016, GrabTaxi was rebranded as “Grab”, which encompasses all the company’s products: GrabCar (personal cars), GrabBike (motorcycle taxis), GrabHitch (carpooling) and GrabExpress (last mile delivery) with a new, redesigned logo.[36] In October 2016, Grab added an in-app instant messaging feature called “GrabChat” to allow simple communication between riders and drivers. GrabChat can even translate messages if the set languages of the driver and passenger are different.[37] In December 2016, Grab introduced “GrabShare”, which offers taxi and car-sharing services.[38]

In February 2017, Grab launched the GrabCoach service for booking large passenger vehicles.[39] In March 2017, Grab introduced GrabFamily for young children below 7 years old, to fulfill regulations where children under 1.35 metres must be placed on a child booster seat or child restraint. The LTA ruled that private hire cars under Uber or Grab, are not exempted from child seat requirement.[40] GrabFamily vehicles offer child restraint seats. Additionally, children under 1.35 metres are not allowed into private hire cars, and thus can only use either GrabFamily or a taxi. Later that month, Grab launched a simplified flat-fare structure, JustGrab.[41] Since 24 May 2017, a new multiple stop rule charged $5 extra for addition of a stop outside the original booking.[42][43]

On 9 March 2017, LTA introduced a new regulation of private hire cars called Private Hire Car Vocational Licence (PDVL), with effect from 1 July 2017, and tagged to the route number.[44] This is to ensure the quality of private hire car services, and to prevent route fraud.[45]

In March 2018, Grab merged with Uber’s Southeast Asian operations.[46] As part of the acquisition, Grab took over Uber’s assets and operations, including UberEats, which led to Grab’s expansion of food delivery services.[47] Uber holds a 28% stake in Grab.[48] Grab also launched their eScooter rental service known as GrabWheels in March 2018.[49][50] In April 2018, Grab introduced the new car service, GrabCar Plus, which offers a larger vehicle in exchange for a 20% premium fee. The existing GrabCar (Economy), will be slowly phased out.[51]

Expanding beyond transportation[edit]

In November 2016, Grab launched GrabPay payment service as a digital payment service among third-party merchants, allowing users to use the app for purchases outside of ride-hailing.[52] In December 2016, Grab launched GrabRewards rewards programme.[53]

In April 2017, Grab confirmed the acquisition of Indonesian online payment startup Kudo. The Kudo platform was integrated with Grab’s payment system and was Grab’s initial step into expanding fintech services.[54]

In May 2018, Grab launched GrabFood food delivery service.[55] In October 2018, Grab launched GrabExpress courier service.[56] In 2018, Grab also launched Grab Financial, a financial arm of the company which offers payment, insurance, and financing services.[57] In November 2018, Grab invested in Indonesian conglomerate Lippo Group’s Ovo platform to compete against rival Go-Jek.[58] Ovo is Indonesia’s leading digital e-payment platform. In December 2018, Grab launched GrabClub subscription programme.[59]

In December 2020, Grab was granted a digital bank licence from Singapore together with Singtel as a consortium that would allow Grab-Singtel to expand their financial services offerings.[60]

In January 2021, Grab Financial Group, the company’s financial services unit, raised more than $300 million from South Korea’s Hanwha Asset Management.[61][62]

Recent developments[edit]

In January 2019, Grab announced that it will build a new Singapore headquarters in one-north as it expands its operations. It is expected to be ready in the fourth quarter of 2020.[63] The US$135M facility will be developed and managed by Ascendas Reit (now under CapitaLand).[64] Grab held its ground-breaking ceremony for its future headquarters on 29 March 2019,[65][66] during which it announced a new function to plan journeys and pay for public transportation fares.[67] The headquarters will support a total of 3,000 employees, consolidating its office space currently spread around four locations.[68]

In February 2019, the company launched GrabPet in Singapore. Under the new service, passengers with pets will be allocated to Grab drivers who have received training in pet handling and welcome animals in their vehicles.[69]

In March 2019, Grab announced that they would be implementing a S$4 penalty charge for users who cancel Singapore bookings 5 minutes after it is made. It will also apply if the driver waits at the pick-up point for longer than 5 minutes.[70] Supposed to be implemented on 11 March 2019, the implementation of this policy was delayed to 25 March 2019.[71] In Malaysia, the cancellation fee ranges from RM3 to RM5.[72]

In April 2019, Grab launched its first cloud kitchen (called GrabKitchen) in Indonesia under its food delivery service.[73] 50 GrabKitchens were set up in six Southeast Asian countries within a year.[74] Grab also launched their super app in April 2019 to consolidate its online services into one platform, as well as launching Hotels and Tickets.[75]

In November 2019, Grab announced they had partnered with JapanTaxi [jp] and Careem, allowing selected users to book rides using the Grab app in Japan and the Middle East respectively.[76]

A month later, Grab, co-branded with Mastercard, launched a numberless payment card (being the first in Asia).[77]

In February 2020, Grab launched GrabCare for healthcare workers in Singapore, starting with 24-hour services to Tan Tock Seng Hospital and National Centre for Infectious Diseases. This came after reports of increased discrimination due to the COVID-19 situation, making it difficult for healthcare workers to get rides. The service will eventually be expanded to other Singapore hospitals.[78] Grab also expanded its GrabMart (daily essentials delivery) and GrabAssistant (on-demand concierge) services to more cities and countries to meet increased demand for online food and grocery deliveries. To support its driver- and merchant-partners during the outbreak, Grab committed US$40 million to relief initiatives across Southeast Asia.[79]

In December 2020, Grab is reportedly in talks with GoJek to combine their businesses in what would be the biggest Internet merger in Southeast Asia.[80]

On 4 December 2020, it was announced a consortium of Grab and Singapore Telecommunications had been awarded a digital banking licence in Singapore.[81]

Number of users[edit]

In May 2014, GrabTaxi said it had 1.2 million downloads. At around June 2013, it claimed to be making one booking every eight seconds, or 10,000 a day, representing sixteen-fold growth within a year.[19] In November 2017, Grab reached one billion rides with 66 concurrent rides in one second across seven countries, occupying 97% market share in the third-party taxi-hailing market and 72% in the private vehicle hailing market. The company also claimed to have two million driving partners, 68 million mobile app downloads, and 3.5 million daily rides.[82] In December 2018, Grab claimed to have served 920 million kilometres worth of rides to its users that year.[83]

The COVID-19 pandemic has reportedly increased Grab usage across most of its markets and verticals, including GrabFood, GrabCar, and GrabBike. In Singapore, for example, Grab reported the successful onboarding of over 600,000 new merchants across Southeast Asia—more than doubling the number of its merchants.[84]


In April 2014, the company secured more than US$10 million in series A funding from Vertex Ventures Southeast Asia & India[85] (part of the Vertex Holdings network of funds). The company proceeded to raise another US$15 million in series B funding in May 2014, led by Chinese venture capital firm GGV Capital, with participation from Qunar and Vertex Venture Holdings.[86] In October 2014, the company raised US$65 million in series C funding from US-based hedge fund Tiger Global, GGV Capital, and Venture Vertex Holdings.[87] In December 2014, Grab managed to raise US$250 million in series D funding, invested in full by SoftBank Corp (now SoftBank Group), which Grab claimed to be the largest investment made into a Southeast Asian internet company on public record.[88] In August 2015, Grab raised US$350 million in series E funding round from a range of investors including Didi Kuadi (now Didi Chuxing) and China Investment Corporation (CIC).[89] In September 2016, Grab raised another US$750 million in series F funding from SoftBank, Didi, and Honda.[90][91] In August 2017, Grab raised US$2.5 billion in series G funding from SoftBank, Didi, and Toyota.[92] As of March 2018, Grab was valued at US$6 billion. In 2014, Anthony Tan stated that the company might consider an initial public offering (IPO) when the number of bookings through the app reaches 2 million a day.[18]

In October 2018, Grab raised another $200 million from Booking Holdings (formerly known as Priceline).[93]

In December 2018 the company announced the plans to hold Series H of funding. The total amount of funding is expected to reach $6.5 billion.[94][95]

In February 2020, the company announced it had raised a total of $856 million in two tranches: $706 million from Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc and $150 million from TIS INTEC, an IT solutions business out of Japan.[96]


In 2015, GrabTaxi opened a US$100 million research and development facility in the central business district of Singapore.[97] The new facility houses 200 engineers and data scientists over the next few years. Recent hires includes Chief Technology Officer Wei Zhu, ex-Facebook Engineer and creator of Facebook Connect who left the company in Aug 2015.[98] This emphasis on software engineers and data scientist recruitment for the new facility suggests the company’s strategy lies in development of new tools, as well as possible expansion of app and service features and staff management.[99] Up till the end of 2018, the Data Science department in Singapore had more than 60 data scientists, mostly with PhD, and was leading all the R&D facilities in intellectual property creation. In 2016, the company will open a new development centre and office in Seattle that will serve as a tech hub to attract talent in the United States.[100] The company states that it has no plans to launch in North America.[101]


In the Philippines, GrabCar was fully legalised after being accredited as a Transportation Network Company (TNC) by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) in 2015.[102] The following year, Malaysia approved plans that legitimised Grab and Uber services, as well as to transform their taxi industry. On 4 April 2017, the Malaysian government tabled amendments to existing transport laws that would regulate transport application services and protect drivers from harassment. Through the amendment, Grab and Uber vehicles were classified as public service vehicles as part of the move to legalise both services in its efforts to transform the country’s public transport services.[103] The amendments were passed by the Parliament of Malaysia on 28 July 2017, which directly legalised both services to operate in the country.[104] In Singapore, similar laws that legalised the service were passed in February 2017.[105] Since its foundation, GrabTaxi received majority votes in an online poll conducted by Singapore’s Straits Times as the taxi app of choice.[106]


Recent regulatory issues have arisen for third-party booking apps like GrabTaxi, but there seems to have been few issues surrounding the company in the 6 markets that they are in. The tech company had also received the support of the Malaysian Public Land Transport Commission (SPAD) when the government department introduced the use of technology using the GrabTaxi applications to enhance the efficiency of taxi drivers in Malaysia. The company is working with the government department to improve the image of taxi drivers in the city.[107][108][109]

In the Philippines, GrabBike has temporarily stopped operations following the LTFRB order. LTFRB and GrabBike Inc. met to discuss the transport agency’s warning for the motorcycle taxi service to stop its operations as it is not included in Grab’s, or any other transportation Network Company’s (TNC), accreditation to offer bikes as a public mode of transportation that can be booked through a digital platform. The Department of Transportation (DOTr) has yet to create guidelines regarding the use of bikes and motorcycles as a public mode of transportation. Until then, GrabBike will not be able to operate. TNC’s non-compliance with the directive “shall be dealt with severely”, said LTFRB.[110]

In May 2016, the Directorate for Roads of Vietnam (DRVN) suggested that both Grab and Uber taxis should have signed on their cars to differentiate them from conventional taxis, a suggestion that sparked a wave of protest from many local taxi companies. Most taxi operators claimed the change would amount to legal recognition of the services as local taxis face many constraints from the government, such as limitations on the number of vehicles, bans on using several streets, paying more tax and higher operation costs. At the same time, both Grab and Uber were excluded from such requirements.[111] In response, the Vietnamese Ministry of Transport set to review the legal status of both Grab and Uber to ensure a fair business environment for firms.[112] A draft of a new circular was submitted in early 2018 that includes regulations for passenger transport (by car) through software which directly focusing on those applications.[113]

In Thailand in 2016, the motorbike taxi services of Grab and Uber were suspended on claims the services are breaking local rules and clashing with registered transport companies.[114] Further crackdown on the services was continued in early 2017 with a Thai transport official asks the government to ban them although little efforts being done as both services have gain popularity among Thais and foreign visitors in the country.[115]

In February 2017, Land Transport Authority (LTA) in Singapore ruled that private hire cars who used Uber or Grab service are not exempted from child seat requirement. For safety reasons, all vehicles in Singapore must have booster seats or child restraints for passengers under 1.35m in height.[116]

Since 1 July 2017, the LTA has required GrabCar, JustGrab and GrabHitch to have Private Hire Vehicle’s Vocational Licence (PDVL). This follows after LTA introduced a new regulation for private hire cars called Private Hire Car Driver’s Vocational Licence (PDVL) which took effect in July 2017.[44] This is to ensure that commuter’s interest is better protected in particular safety.[45]


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