Bid to enable public transit payments via GrabPay

  • TECH
  • Wednesday, 30 May 2018

The Grab logo is displayed on the windshield of a GrabTaxi, in Singapore, on Thursday, April 26, 2018. Ride-hailing service Grab started a new app in March that will be a single marketplace offering different sharing options for bicycles and electronic-scooters in Singapore, according to a company statement. Photographer: Paul Miller/Bloomberg

Moving beyond cab rides and in-store purchases, Grab is also targeting for its mobile wallet service GrabPay to be used to pay for public transportation.

After establishing its ride-hailing business in Singapore, the integration of public and private transport is the "next logical step", Grab Singapore head Lim Kell Jay said May 28.

Mr Lim said in future, the Grab app will give commuters a range of options – from a direct point-to-point method, using taxis or private-hire cars, or through multiple modes including transfers on shuttle buses, cars and public transport. "You pay everything in a seamless way – cashless – through GrabPay."

He said Grab is talking to stakeholders – but declined to name them – to explore how commuters can use their mobile phones and the Grab app to tap on fare gantries at MRT stations, for example.

One option is by using Near-Field Communication (NFC) technology, he said. Currently, commuters with the ez-link NFC SIM card and a compatible phone can use their devices to pay for MRT, LRT and bus rides.

Asked about Grab's plans, the Land Transport Authority said it "engages with industry partners to understand various payment solutions which could potentially be used in public transport".

Essec Business School's associate professor of information systems Jan Ondrus said enabling commuters to pay for public transit using GrabPay will be a "big boost" for Grab, as there will be a broad adoption and a high volume of transactions. But Prof Ondrus said there may be technical issues, as GrabPay works with QR (quick-response) code, while ez-link uses NFC, and radio waves for communication between travel cards and readers.

"Making GrabPay interoperable with the current MRT system will be challenging and costly," he added.

On May 28 Grab rolled out the GrabFood delivery service in Singapore, as it discontinued the UberEats app which it acquired from Uber during a merger deal in March. Mr Lim said GrabFood is a "significant step" to serving the everyday needs of consumers, beyond just transport.

Grab said there are "thousands" of eateries on the platform, without giving an exact number. There will be no minimum order requirements for GrabFood and users can also order meals up to five days in advance. GrabFood is giving users $5 off the first three orders.

GrabFood is up against players like Deliveroo and foodpanda. Since Uber's March announcement that it would be exiting South-East Asia, Deliveroo said it has absorbed over 300 of UberEats' restaurant partners onto its platform. foodpanda Singapore's managing director Luc Andreani said it has seen many players come and go over the years, trying to gain market share by burning through investors' funding, which is not sustainable in the long run.

National University of Singapore Business School's Associate Professor Lawrence Loh said Grab has amassed a strong base of customers through transportation.

"It makes business sense to leverage on this pool of customers. E-payments, (food) delivery, and ride-hailing have abundant synergies," he added. — The Straits Times/ANN
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