November 6, 2019

Grab App Proves That Social Good And Profitability Can Be Achieved Together

Written By: Angie Pascale

If you don’t live in Southeast Asia, you might not be familiar with Grab app. But for those that live in the region or have visited recently, you probably don’t go a day without using this superapp. In the last 24 hours, you’ve likely used Grab to book a taxi or rickshaw, reserve a hotel room, buy concert tickets, order food delivery, schedule healthcare services, or request financial services. In Southeast Asia, you know the ubiquity and utility of Grab. 

But what you might not know are all the ways that Grab is pushing the edge of accessibility and inclusion, and making real social changes. 

Grab started in 2013 with a simple goal: to make taxis reliable and safe. Grab has grown a great deal over the past six years, but their main objective is still similar. “What has remained constant and never changed [is that] we’re focused on solving Southeast Asia’s biggest problems,” Grab’s CMO Cheryl Goh shared at Colab 2019, our Global Summit in Singapore. “And we believe the biggest enabler here is technology.”

Grab’s technology is enabling Southeast Asian citizens in several ways:

Empowering Small Business Owners

Grab’s technology has allowed traditional food truck owners and other small businesses to reach new audiences, increasing sales and allowing them to provide for their families. 

Grab Kitchen provides restaurant owners with a kitchen facility, utilities, and a payment gateway to establish a new business or continue expanding their existing restaurant in a more cost-efficient manner.

Creating Micro-Entrepreneurs

Grab employs more than 9 million drivers, delivery partners, merchants and agents across Southeast Asia today. For many of these micro-entrepreneurs, they were not earning any income before working with Grab.

Enabling Accessibility & Inclusion

Grab’s employment policy is inclusive, allowing people in wheelchairs, elderly citizens, those with hearing difficulties, and individuals with other disabilities to create financial stability and regain their freedom. 

Providing Healthcare for All

Grab Health provides access to trusted and reliable medical information, and get medical supplies delivered to the patient’s doorstep. Their vision is to have one private doctor for every family in Southeast Asia.

Urging Policy Changes

Grab has lobbied with local governments to endorse not only Grab but all ride sharing companies to allow people with disabilities to drive for them. At the beginning of 2019, with new rideshare legislation looming in Malaysia, Grab pushed for provisions to be added allowing people with disabilities to drive. In August, Grab helped ensure these same provisions in Indonesia and Thailand, and recently recruited their first batch of deaf Thai drivers. 

Protecting Citizens

Grab works with local police forces in Malaysia to alert drivers and delivery partners about missing minors. The Grab network is then able to work as additional eyes and ears for the local police to help locate missing children and people in need. 

These social changes aren’t just by-products of the technology; they lead the roadmap for Grab’s product development. 

“Technology can be an enabler, but also it can divide,” Cheryl warned. “And the reality is it actually will divide if we don’t take very active steps in making sure that everybody is included.” 

Grab is taking these steps with Grab for Good, a six-year commitment by the company to: 

  1. Improve digital inclusion and accessibility through digital education and training, job opportunities, and app functionality; 
  2. Continue empowering micro-entrepreneurs and SMBs, not only by employing them but providing microloans and marketing training; and 
  3. Work with universities to build a future-ready workforce.

Cheryl went on to explain that, while Grab may be leading many of these changes, they’re not doing it alone. “The way to drive impact at scale is to work with other people.”

Grab has partnered with governments, sharing data to improve traffic and tourism, and with other technology companies to increase digital literacy and inclusion. 

While social change and improvements are a guiding vision for Grab, they are not and have never been a nonprofit. In fact, Grab is targeting $2 billion in revenue for 2019 and the company is valued at twice the revenue multiple of Uber

So how do you balance social good with profitability? Cheryl’s advice: “Stop looking for the most profitable customer, and try to serve the most [customers] and still make a profit.”

Written By: Angie Pascale