Grab bemoans lengthy legal gridlock
App pushes platform economic model
Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country yet to legalise ride-hailing applications, hindering economic gains and perpetuating traffic congestion, says Grab, Southeast Asia's leading on-demand transport service.
"Legalising ride-hailing apps will improve people's quality of life by providing more jobs for freelance drivers and reducing traffic jams," said Tarin Thaniyavarn, country head for Grab Thailand.
Governments in Cambodia and Myanmar have amended their transport regulations and legalised ride-hailing apps. Grab expanded its service to these countries this year, Mr Tarin said.
Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines have already legalised ride-hailing apps.
"We worked closely with the government over the past two years, but there is still no progress, which contrasts with the Thailand 4.0 policy," Mr Tarin said.
Despite the lack of legal support, the number of Grab app downloads has reached 6 million in Thailand.
"If ride-hailing apps are legalised, the services will become widespread and employ more drivers," Mr Tarin said.
Grab has more than 100 million mobile downloads in Southeast Asia, with a network of 7.1 million drivers.
The company reached 2 billion rides on July 7. It took five years and four months to hit the first billion rides, but less than nine months to reach the next billion.
Grab expects to be the first Southeast Asian company to hit revenue of US$1 billion (33.3 billion baht) by the end of 2018.
Mr Tarin said Grab also aims to become a "platform" for everyday-use services, competing with Line and Go-Jek, the Indonesian ride-hailing app set to enter the Thai market in a few months.
Despite being a competitor, Go-Jek's imminent presence in Thailand will help stimulate ride-hailing services and push the government to legalise the service, he said.
According to Mr Tarin, Grab wants to become a platform that connects other partner services, increasing user convenience.
In the third quarter, Grab will connect through an open API (application programming interface) with HappyFresh, an online grocery shopping and delivery app. This will be Grab's first partnership under the company's "super app" vision.
HappyFresh can help expand Grab's customer base, while Grab users can enjoy a variety of services, Mr Tarin said.
Starting from mid-July, Grab will also increase its "reward" benefits to users who collect points every time they use app services.
"This is our biggest marketing outlay, meant to increase users' stickiness and lead them to partners in the Grab Rewards system, which deepens our integration," Mr Tarin said.
The company also introduced a beta test of Grab Daily for news updates and Grab TV, using outsourced production.
"These can leverage future revenue on top of the existing user base," Mr Tarin said.
Grab also secured a microfinance licence to offer loans, including instalments, to its huge base of drivers.
"We have started to make drivers pay instalments daily via Samsung smartphones," Mr Tarin said.