Making a difference

  • Imagining loved ones are in Grab cars is a constant reminder to him of passenger safety
  • It is about providing customers what they actually want


Making a difference


WHEN Grab co-founder and chief executive officer Anthony Tan started his company (then called MyTeksi), he realised that for many Malaysians, the taxi system was broken and taxis were not safe.

“This was a pain point with a lot of customers,” he recalls. “How do we promise safety and remind ourselves of safety? That’s how we came up with the tagline ‘I Like It Safe’,” he says, during the ‘Fireside chat with Grab’ session at the Wild Digital conference in Kuala Lumpur.

He adds that for every car ride, they imagine that it is a person they care about in the car. “It’s a constant reminder to each of us,” he says of him and his business partners.

Asking Tan questions during the fireside chat was Patrick Grove, CEO and co-founder of the Catcha Group, who commented that Tan’s company Grab had ‘done a phenomenal job and is dominating the Southeast Asian region’.

Nevertheless, Tan remained humble. “There are times when we feel we are way over our heads and I go on my knees and pray. I spend a lot of time thinking with my co-founder, my wife and the team,” he says.

He adds that it is about providing customers with what they actually want. “In Southeast Asia, cash is still the main medium of exchange….how do we master cash? That’s what people want so that’s what we gave them. That was really important.

“Another thing was in the old days Malaysia had loyalty cards like Bonuslink for gas stations. So people could redeem points and were loyal to certain brands. Similarly, people are using Grab because they know they are going to get points.”

Grab also introduced GrabChat although no other competitor had it. Tan pointed out that it was about providing local stuff that Southeast Asians care about.

Yet, Tan’s company isn’t his life. “The biggest decision in your life is finding the biggest joint venture partner, who is your spouse. Now you have someone who shares your values and wants you to go out there and make an impact and do the right thing and make the world a better place.

“We shared the same values and wanted to make a change in the world and that was it, it made me the man I am today,” he says of his wife.

Catcha’s Grove highlights that Grab has raised some US$1.2 billion in funding. Tan replied that he can’t remember how many pitch meetings with investors he had prior to that, but advised that “it’s not about starting well, it’s about finishing damn well”.

“So what if you are a startup and you can’t make money, can’t sustain? You need to think about what you are doing to develop new relationships,” he advises.

He shares an anecdote of an encounter with one of his investors. The investor didn’t look at Tan’s agreement, instead just shook hands with him and agreed to invest in his company. Recalling that, Tan says that he appreciated that the investor said to him ‘I know you will honour your word’, and concluded the story by saying that the ability to say that you are credible and want to honour the relationship has paid off.


Related links:

Grab to create 5 million micro-entrepreneurs in Indonesia by 2018

Go-jek’s golden funding round from Tencent & its halo effect on the Indonesian ecosytem

Grab, MDEC, World Bank Group Launch OpenTraffic platform to combat local traffic woes


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