Uber seems to be doing well after its abrupt exit from the competitive Southeast Asia market after selling to local competitor Grab. The ride-hailing company made $2.5 billion in profit on $2.6 billion revenue in Q1 2018.
“Uber gained $2.9 billion after it merged its businesses in Russia and Southeast Asia with local competitors.” – Recode
How has Grab spent this time and opportunistic time to grow market share?
Well, the Singaporean based, ride-hailing Grab celebrates its sixth birthday this year and its founder and CEO Anthony Tan recently took the occasion to announce the launch of its new investment arm: Grab Innovate.
This is a good sign pointing to healthy coffers and without Uber, the company has a relatively a smooth path to a ride-hail/all-in-one super app monopoly in Southeast Asia markets (that are not Indonesia).
A lot has changed since Uber’s exit two months ago.
Grab’s Timeline Following Uber’s Exit
March 25th – Uber exits from Southeast Asia, sells to Grab
May 7th – Grab rolls back discounts for customers and incentives for drivers
May 7th – Grab Singapore launches three new services: GrabAssist, GrabCar Plus and GrabFamily
May 7th – Grab allows cash top up feature in the Philippines
May 17th – Motorbike taxi drivers protest in front of Grab Bike office in Bangkok
May 28th – Grab launches GrabFood in Singapore
June 4th – Grab announces launch of Grab&Go allowing riders to try up to four free samples such as cereal bars, shampoo, etc. during their rides
June 5th – Grab announces launch of Grab Ventures and Velocity
But there has been backlash from various communities – rider and drivers alike – who are disappointed with the company’s recent performance, user experience after only now being forced to use the Grab app.
What are customers unhappy about?
Based on an ecommerceIQ Community survey, the top two ride-hailing providers preferred by customers remain Grab and Uber.
It is also important to keep in mind the top respondents reside in Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand that can skew the results as LINE and Go-Jek aren’t available in Singapore.
When asked about the other value-added services used in addition to ride-hailing, customers chose “Food delivery” and “Package delivery” in second and third place, respectively. Results also revealed the adoption of built-in e-wallets aren’t popular.
And all hell broke loose when customers were asked to ‘speak their mind’ about Grab services in Southeast Asia. These were a few of the replies:
“Functionality not as good as Uber, but improving. Maps not as accurate, main gripe is timings – the estimated times are totally off so really hard to know when to book. Wallet has been useful at hawkers / festivals a couple of times, would use more if that expands.”
“Cannot change the pickup location (sometimes GPS is not accurate) – tried ordering food at 11AM and it said rider not available – got a lot more expensive and waiting got much worse after Uber’s exit.”
“Prices has increased dramatically since the merger with Uber; what’s worse is, driver availability has also gone down since.”
“Too expensive now. Confusing fare structure and flat rate charged before the trip are more expensive than taking a taxi. Losing UberEATS for GrabFood is the bigger disappointment though – at least Grab’s transport works, the GrabFood UX/UI is the worst app I’ve opened for four years and completely unfriendly to non Thais.”
And a single positive reply:
Most common complaints? Terrible UX, inaccurate Maps, lack of drivers and more expensive than before.
Go-Jek to the rescue?
While on-demand in Indonesia is essentially untouchable due to Go-Jek’s market dominance and customer loyalty, the company will struggle to convince other Southeast Asians to download yet another on-demand app when they expand.
But a window of opportunity may be wide open for them if Grab doesn’t improve its user experience (and quickly given Go-Jek’s long-awaited expansion).
During our intimate interviews with Jakartians who surprisingly use multiple digital payments, we discovered it is all due to convenience. Because they already use Go-Jek to order everything else on one platform – one app. They don’t want to install more applications on their mobile phones.
Let’s say Go-Jek is able to overcome tricky government regulations, assemble driver fleets, and jump through talent pool hoops, customers trying Go-Jek, already well-known in Indonesia for its superior UX/UI, have access to the company’s all-in-one app services – all in one.
This is an already added plus considering users need to download a separate GrabFood app to order food versus the built in function in Go-Jek’s app.
GoJek’s expansion will also mean users can enjoy lower prices as companies will likely revert back to heavy subsidies to win customers and leading to Grab dropping prices once again.
Competition is a good thing
Competition encourages businesses to improve the quality of goods and services they sell to attract more customers and expand market share.
“Preparations are well under way and within the next few weeks our first new country launch will be announced. This will be followed by three other countries in Southeast Asia by the middle of the year.” – Nadiem Makarim, CEO and founder of Go-Jek.
Citing the financial and strategic backing of its local and global partners, he added: “We are confident that we have more than enough support to take one of the most amazing growth stories in the world from being an Indonesian phenomenon to a global one.”
Grab should be taking advantage of this brief moment of competitor-less time to become even more user friendly, push revenue limits and popularise its e-wallet, but based on survey results, forgotten to optimise its core value proposition – a seamless ride-hailing experience.
Brace yourselves everyone, we’re in for another on-demand showdown.