Grab: App and pricing won’t change, even after merger

  • TECH
  • Thursday, 29 Mar 2018

Despite Grab's merger with ride-share rival Uber, Grab's app will stay the same from pricing to user experience, says its Malaysia country head Sean Goh.
He said raising prices would be damaging to demand and cause drivers to lose orders; and by extension cut into Grab's earnings. 
"That said, pricing is something that always needs to change according to the situation. Regulation could drive up prices, while dropping car and petrol prices could drive it down. It works both ways," he said, during a recent dialogue with the media. 
Goh said though the philosophy that competition is good for the consumer is sometimes true, in ride-sharing efficiency is created from density of drivers and riders. 
"With a greater concentration of jobs and available drivers, we expect to see shorter wait-times and faster pick-ups. This would mean better productivity for our drivers, and better reliability for our passengers," he said. 
Goh said there were no plans to change the user experience, with drivers to be informed of the rider's destination.
"With great transparency, comes great responsibility," he said, admitting that drivers sometimes cherry-picked by refusing to go to certain destinations, though measures would be taken to curb such behaviour.
Asked about antitrust issues, Goh said discussions with regulators will take place, while Grab held the view that companies should not create artificial barriers against competition. 
He added that the company saw other transport options like private car ownership and public transport as the competition, adding that Grab was in talks to collaborate with KTM. 
On March 26, Grab confirmed it acquired Uber’s South-East Asia operations to merge both ride-hailing companies' operations in the region.
Japanese firm SoftBank Group Corp is the biggest shareholder in both companies. 

Goh speaking to media about the effects of Grab's merger with Uber during a sit down session at Grab's HQ. — AHMAD ZAMIR/The Star

Under the agreement, Grab will acquire all of Uber’s operations including food delivery service Uber Eats, while Uber in return gets a 27.5% stake in Grab and its chief executive officer Dara Khosrowshahi will join Grab's board. 
Grab is on-boarding Uber drivers, with expectations to complete the process before the Uber app shuts down on April 8.
Goh said Uber riders would need to sign up to Grab, with new riders to be given incentives to do so. 
Meanwhile, GrabFood – which takes over Uber Eats' role – would roll out by May. He said it would be on a separate app, but have integration with GrabPay's digital payment. 
Asked about the fate of Uber's full-time staff, Goh said there were a lot of Uber's functions that needed to continue, thus Grab was in talks with the staff to see if they would want to continue on in Grab.
"It (retaining or dismissing staff) is not one sided, and not everyone wants to join us," he said, confirming that Grab was not obliged to retain any Uber staff, which numbered about 500 in the South-East Asian operations. 
With the merger, Grab consolidates its position as one of the largest ride-share services in the region, offering its services in 191 cities across Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia.
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