Company Profile - Grab
Anthony Tan, chief executive and co-founder of Singapore-based company Grab, is one of Southeast Asia’s top technopreneurs. A Harvard graduate, he is the scion of the family behind Tan Chong Motor Holdings Berhad, one of Malaysia’s biggest automobile businesses. However, instead of simply joining his family’s successful business, Tan decided to start and build his own company.
Southeast Asia’s Leading Superapp
The idea for an application-based taxi reservation service was first conceived in a Harvard Business School business venture competition in July 2011. Tan and his classmate, Tan Hooi Ling, won second place and US$25,000 in prize money in the competition. The following year, they co-founded GrabTaxi and launched MyTeksi, a taxi-hailing mobile app offering safer and more reliable taxi rides in Malaysia.
In the early days, GrabTaxi faced many issues and dealt with unions, government bureaucracies and even criminal attacks. Despite the challenges, the company persevered and raised funds for expansion into Southeast Asia. It expanded to the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand in 2013 and to Indonesia in 2014. GrabTaxi attained unicorn status in August 2015. The company moved its headquarters to Singapore and rebranded it as Grab in 2016 to reflect its expanding service offerings. Grab launched the QR-code based mobile payment system, GrabPay, in 2017. In May 2018, it piloted the GrabFood delivery service.
Today, Grab is one of Southeast Asia’s most dominant superapps that currently operates in more than 400 cities across eight countries. Grab has diversified its product offering from a humble ride-hailing app to include food and grocery deliveries, online shopping, and mobile payments. Grab acquired its rival Uber’s assets in Southeast Asia in March 2018 and debuted on Nasdaq through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) that valued Grab at US$40 billion in December 2021. In collaboration with Singtel, Grab is expected to launch its digital bank in Singapore in 2022.
Bold and Tenacious
Tan was inspired by his grandfather, who had a humble beginning as a taxi driver before he went on to build an automobile empire. His grandfather’s stories motivated him to start something of his own that could make a social impact. Anthony’s upbringing in an entrepreneurial family helped him shape his innovative and solution-driven mindset. His boldness is evident when he left his comfort zone by not joining his family business and decided to chart his own path, despite his family’s displeasure.
Tan is ambitious, tenacious, laser-focused and driven to “serve Southeast Asians’ daily needs”. He is confident in the region’s potential and aims to bring users more everyday services, greater accessibility, and convenience. At the same time, he seeks to tackle income disparity, outdated infrastructure, and access inequality in the region.
Grab’s success is also attributed to Tan’s hands-on leadership. He is always on-ground, at times doing the deliveries himself. He has also established an open and innovative culture in the company where employees are provided with opportunities to take on new challenges across different work areas and encouraged to take risks.
“The Grab Way,” Grab. https://assets.grab.com/wp-content/uploads/media/ir/The-Grab-Way.pdf
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Ravi Velloor, “At 40, Grab Chief Executive Anthony Tan Has Miles to Go,” Straits Times, 3 April 2022. https://www.straitstimes.com/business/invest/ingoodcompany-at-40-grab-chief-executive-anthony-tan-has-miles-to-go
Joseph An, “Meet the Co-founder and Chief Executive of Grab: Mr Anthony Tan,” Asia ABC, 22 September 2021. https://asiaabc.news/2021/09/22/meet-the-co-founder-and-chief-executive-of-grab-mr-anthony-tan/