Grab, the Southeast Asian ride-hailing app company, is trying to expand its business — and as a result, it is opening up its platform to developers outside of the company.
The Financial Times reported that the overhauled platform is aimed at being more like WeChat, the messaging app owned by China’s Tencent. The app melds chatting, eCommerce and gaming and allows developers to make services for its more than 1 billion account holders. Grab wants to keep customers on its platform longer so that it can collect more data and eventually make money off the platform, noted the Financial Times. The report noted that the overhauled app suggests that Grab wants to follow the Chinese technology model in which large companies provide several services instead of being more focused, the preferred method of tech companies in the U.S. Anthony Tan, Grab’s co-founder and chief executive, told the FT that the new app should help drive revenue to $1B by the end of this year. “Southeast Asia is set to be the fourth-largest economy by 2050. More people are moving into the middle class, technology infrastructure is catching up, and companies must adapt fast to shifting emerging market opportunities,” he said.
The app will also include a news feed, local information and information based on the season. The paper noted, for instance, it could tell users where the closets mosques are during Ramadan or give users the latest World Cup scores.
The move to overhaul and relaunch the Grab app comes at the same time the company is seeing increased scrutiny of its purchase of Uber’s operations in Southeast Asia by the antitrust watchdog in Singapore, which wants to fine the companies and warned it could unwind the deal if it hurts competition. According to Reuters last week, while Uber sold its Southeast Asian operations to Grab in March and got a stake in Grab as part of the deal, the transaction is now getting more scrutiny by regulators — including the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore, which took the rare step of starting an investigation into the deal days after the two companies announced it. The commission said it is proposing fines because Grab and Uber went ahead with the deal despite anticipating it would result in less competition in Singapore.