History of GRAB
The idea of creating a taxi-booking mobile app first came from Anthony Tan, who is the youngest of the three brothers of the family that operates Tan Chong Motors, the authorised distributor for Nissan cars in Malaysia. When a friend visited him in Malaysia, Anthony heard his friend complaining about the horrible experience of riding taxis in the country. In particular, his friend was concerned that his taxis may be taking an incorrect route or overcharging him. Anthony decided to take this problem up as a project while studying at Harvard Business School. When he presented the project to his professors, the comments he received were that this project was “difficult to implement” and “not proven yet in the real world”. Nevertheless, in 2011, the project won second place at the Business Plan Contest at Harvard Business School. The app was also selected as the finalist at Harvard’s Minimum Viable Product Funding award.
In June 2012, Anthony Tan quit his position as the head-of-marketing of his family business Tan Chong Motors at Kuala Lumpur and launched the “My Teksi” app in Malaysia (known as “GrabTaxi” in other countries) together with Tan Hooi Ling, another Harvard graduate. Tan Hooi Ling, Anthony’s classmate, who was also a consultant at McKinsey & Company, drew a business plan for promoting the mobile app. MyTeksi was launched with initial grant of US$ 25,000 from Harvard Business school and Anthony Tan’s personal capital. Anthony Tan became the CEO of the company. He went door-to-door in search for the biggest taxi companies to try his product, but was initially met with negative responses. Not only was he told to not “…sell this stupid app. Nobody will use it. Taxi drivers will steal your phone – they’re terrible people,” he was even told to go back to his family business. Only the fifth taxi company he spoke to, who operated a fleet of only 30 taxis decided to give him a chance.
In 2014, Grab moved its company headquarters from Malaysia to Singapore. According to the company’s filings with the Singapore government in 2017, Anthony Tan also acquired Singaporean citizenship.
GrabTaxi expanded to the Philippines in August 2013, and to Singapore and Thailand in October of the same year. In 2014, Grab in partnership with HDT Holdings, introduces 100 BYD e6 electric taxis in Singapore to form the biggest e-taxi fleet in Southeast Asia. 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. In May 2014, the company launched GrabCar. It serves 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. In November 2014, GrabTaxi launched its first GrabBike service in Ho Chi Minh City as a trial service. By 2015, GrabBike’s motorcycle service rides had spread throughout Vietnam and Indonesia. GrabBike also provides medical insurance for their passengers and drivers. In February 2015, the company launched GrabCar+ (a service that provides a fleet of higher-end cars) in the Philippines.
In January 2016, GrabTaxi was rebranded as “Grab” which encompasses all the company’s products under one roof: GrabCar (personal cars), GrabBike (motorcycle taxis), GrabHitch (carpooling) and GrabExpress (last mile delivery) with a new, redesigned logo. 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. In December 2016, Grab introduced “GrabShare” which offers taxi and car sharing services.
On 7 February 2017, Grab got into coach-style seating for passengers. And on 9 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. 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. On 22 March 2017, Grab launched a simplified flat-fare structure, JustGrab. Since May 2017, a new multiple stop rule charged $5 extra for addition of a stop outside the original booking.
In March 2017, LTA introduced a new regulation of private hire cars called Private Hire Car Vocational Licence (PDVL), with effect from July 2017, and tagged to the route number. This is to ensure the quality of private hire car services, and to prevent route fraud. 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.
In March 2018, Grab merged with Uber‘s SouthEast Asian operations, effectively turning Grab into the only rideshare service in the region.