UberMOTO? Bring it on, says Grab
By Benjamin Cher March 3, 2016
- SEA startup confident it can fend off US competition with its ‘cultural edge’
- Believes its best practices will continue to attract drivers and users
THE ride-sharing competition in South-East Asia stepped up a gear after US giant Uber Technologies launched a pilot motorbike service pilot called UberMOTO in Bangkok late last month.
With that, Singapore-headquartered and Malaysian-founded Grab now has to fend off Uber’s encroachment while dealing with local transport startups like Go-Jek, which operates a similar service out of Jakarta.
Grab, formerly known as GrabTaxi, however remains optimistic about its GrabBike service, declared its marketing vice president Cheryl Goh.
“GrabBike, launched a year ago, has become our fastest-growing service across the region, growing 75% month-over-month since mid-2015 in terms of bookings,” she told Digital News Asia (DNA) via email, without specifying actual figures.
“The runway for growth is immense – for example, our target for GrabBike in Indonesia for 2016 is to push for 50% market share, a projection that we are on track for,” she claimed.
The key to this battle for hearts and minds – or, to be more pragmatic, in the number of users, riders, and bookings – lies in safety standards and user experience.
Grab intends to keep pushing the envelope in these two areas across all its markets, Goh declared.
“As we grow our GrabBike pool of riders and passengers, we will continue to invest in important pillars of our business, including implementing more rider-centric programmes to recruit and retain riders, and investing more into our safety initiatives,” she said.
The bike race is on
Grab claims it is the largest transportation startup in South-East Asia, which makes it attractive to riders, according to Goh.
“They prefer the Grab platform because we are the largest marketplace, with the most jobs, and with access to the larger Grab user base across all transport service options,” she said.
“Riders enjoy daily cash flow – they receive cash for transactions, the locally preferred transaction currency,” she added.
Grab is now operating in 28 cities across six countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam).
The GrabBike service itself is available in Indonesia (in Central Jakarta and several cities in the Greater Jakarta Area); Thailand (Central Bangkok and Nonthaburi, Pratumtani and Samut Prakan in the Greater Bangkok Area); the Philippines (Manila and several cities in Metro Manila); and Vietnam (Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City).
Safety – for both GrabBike riders and passengers – is still paramount. Goh said Grab does background and criminal checks on its riders.
The startup also provides additional personal accident insurance coverage for all GrabBike rides, and provides “free helmets and protective jackets, as well as hairnets for hygiene, on every ride,” she said.
“Grab takes care of its riders by also fostering a sense of community – we provide additional personal accident insurance coverage for riders, give free branded jackets and helmets, and hold regular driver appreciation events and prize giveaways,” she added.
When it comes to motorbikes, one key safety issue is the use of crash helmets. While most countries in South-East Asia have laws mandating the use of helmets, many people choose to ignore them. The danger is even deeper, given that for many people in the region, the motorcycle is the family vehicle.
“An example is Thailand, which has the second-highest road fatality rate in the world – partly due to poor enforcement of laws,” said Goh.
“While required by law to wear helmets, only 52% of riders and 20% of passengers in Thailand actually do so,” she said, citing the WHO Road Safety Report 2015.
“GrabBike outfits our riders with free helmets and protective jackets, and continues to drive safety education, training and awareness initiatives with them,” she added.
Uber is doing something similar: When it launched its UberMOTO pilot in Bangkok, it also announced a partnership with the Thai Traffic Police and Head Awareness Club (HAC) to raise awareness about the importance of motorcycle safety and the use of helmets.
As for Uber entering the fray, Goh was confident that Grab has a “cultural edge.”
“Managing a bike business has its own unique set of challenges, and local knowledge is essential to recruiting riders and understanding passenger preferences,” she said.
“Riders [and drivers for its other services] form the backbone of what we do at Grab, and the value they deliver to passengers by taking them to where they need to be – efficiently and safely – is immense.
“Beyond offering a sustainable income to riders, Grab will continue to focus on their welfare and our community-building initiatives,” she added.
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