Grab Holdings Inc., simply known as Grab, is a super app company known for its transportation services such as ride-hailing, food delivery, as well as digital payments.
The company, headquartered in Singapore, was founded in 2012 by Anthony Tan and Tan Hooi Ling. Grab operates in 8 countries, including Singapore, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Before moving to Singapore, Grab started as a Malaysian-based startup called MyTeksi. The founders, Anthony Tan and Tan Hooi Ling, got their capital from a Harvard Business School grant worth USD 25,000 in 2012. The company then expanded the following year aggressively, extending its services to the Philippines, Thailand, and Singapore.
Grab made history when it became the first startup company in Southeast Asia to reach $10 billion in value. It is questionable how many employees Grab now has. Some reports say there are approximately 7,000 employees. However, according to the company’s LinkedIn profile, the total headcount is estimated to be 40,000 employees (as of June 2022).
During its earlier years, Grab used taxis for booking transportation services. In 2014, the company launched GrabCar and GrabBike to help commuters during peak hours. In 2016, GrabTaxi officially changed its name to just Grab and became one of Southeast Asia’s leading and most popular ride-sharing apps.
In 2018, Grab continued its rapid growth. The company acquired Uber Southeast Asia, which led to Grab expanding its scope of service to food delivery, known as GrabFood. In return, Uber received a 27.5% stake in Grab, and Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s CEO, joined Grab’s board of directors. They engaged themselves with eScooter services (GrabWheels), larger vehicle services (GrabCar Plus), and child-friendly cars (GrabFamily).
Grab also acquired payment solutions in 2017 through Kudo, an Indonesian payment company. With that, Grab could add online payments within the app, known as GrabPay. With its expanding services, Grab has become a super app!
In 2021, the company reported $675 million in revenue, which indicates a 44% increase in Grab’s revenue following the pandemic’s peak. However, the company is still rising from an intense loss of over $3 billion in the same year. The loss was a result of post-pandemic expenses as well as financial investments. Nonetheless, the company has a solid gross merchandise value growth of 56%.
Grab continues to be the leading super app in Southeast Asia, with over 180 million users in 2021. Every month, around 24 million users complete transactions in the app, and 46 million rides are done daily. Today, Grab controls 75% of the Southeast Asian ride-sharing market.
The methodology by which competitors of Grab are ranked is based on various data points. Information such as the revenue generated, the number of employees, the number of available countries, the number of drivers on the platform, the app’s number of users, and anything else relevant is being taken into account.
This analysis only looks at Grab’s ride-hailing competitors to ensure comparability. Companies that Grab (partially) owns are included as well. In March 2018, for example, it acquired a shareholding in Uber’s Southeast Asian operations while continuing to compete with it in other parts of Asia. Note that this analysis only included the areas where Grab operates, namely the Southeast Asian regions.
On the other hand, competition in its Financial Services and other business lines such as payments, insurance, and investments is not considered. This analysis also does not include indirect competitors of Grab. Examples would be public transportation, bus or train operators, scooter startups, and many other modes of transportation. Therefore, the main focus of this analysis is ride-hailing and food delivery.
So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the top 8 competitors of Grab.
Headquarters: Jakarta, Indonesia Founder(s): Nadiem Makarim, Kevin Aluwi, Michelangelo Moran Year Founded: 2009
Are you familiar with GoRide, GoSend, GoFood, and GoShop? If so, know that these apps are all operated by Gojek, a multi-service platform focusing primarily on ride-hailing and online payment solutions. The company started as a call center for consumers and two-wheeled couriers. In 2015, they launched four software solutions for ride-hailing, food delivery, shopping, and payment.
If you’re wondering where the name Gojek came from, it was inspired by motorbike taxis known as “ojek” in Indonesia. The streets of Jakarta were notorious for having severe traffic problems, particularly during rush hours. The ojeks were Jakartans’ last resort, but they were met with hazards on street corners. That’s when Gojek emerged.
During their humble beginnings in 2010, Gojek had only 20 motorbike drivers. Inspired by Uber’s success, the company shifted to multi-services and partnered with Singapore’s DBS Bank. Later on, they also offered food delivery.
The founders believed that the company’s success depended highly on their ability to provide for all of their customers’ needs, so they decided to make the most of the transportation industry. Unlike other companies in the same venture, Gojek has always provided multiple services.
In 2021, Gojek merged with Tokopedia, another Indonesian giant. The merger, called the Go To Group, resulted in a total of $18 billion in value for the companies. It was the first IPO by a tech startup company in its home country, Indonesia. Go To is expected to reach more than $300 billion in gross domestic value in 2025.
After five years, Gojek is valued at over USD 10 billion and offers over 20 services. In 2020, with more than 1.8 billion transactions, Gojek could generate over $22 billion in total revenue. Their apps have more than 190 million users, completing 100 million monthly transactions on average. Gojek has about one million drivers and over 2 million driver-partners. Aside from Indonesia, Gojek currently operates in Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines.
Headquarters: Berlin, Germany Founder(s): Ambareen Reza, Benjamin Bauer, Christian Mishcler, Felix Plog, Kiren Tanna, Mark Cleaver, Ralf Wenzel, Rico Wyder, Rohit Chadda, Simon Schmincke Year Founded: 2012
Foodpanda is a subsidiary of the German-based company Delivery Hero. Currently, it is the top app of Delivery Hero in Asia, excluding China. Foodpanda is the biggest food and grocery delivery app in 12 countries: Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Unlike its top competitors in Southeast Asia, Foodpanda focuses mainly on food and groceries.
Foodpanda, headquartered in Singapore, was launched in Southeast Asia in 2012. The company was later established in the neighboring countries, but it shut down its operations in Brunei. Recently, the company launched its new mascot called Pau-Pau, an empowered and environment-friendly panda.
The app works through partner restaurants, food chains, and stalls. Consumers shop on the app, and the orders are then delivered by the delivery rider who got the order. Users may opt to pay upon delivery or online.
Between 2020 and 2021, Foodpanda was able to have more than 30,000 SME food shops and has partnered with over 80,000 riders. It generated more than $2.5 billion in gross merchandise value, employing over 3,000 people. Despite the company’s success, it often struggled with controversies and boycotts due to political issues, problems with employee management, and high commission rates.
Headquarters: Tokyo, Japan Founder(s): NHN Japan Year Founded: 2011
LINE formerly served as an instant messaging software, providing users with a platform for text messaging, video conferencing, and multimedia messaging. In 2015, with the ever-changing function of telecommunication software, the founders decided to invest in the transportation industry. As a super app, LINE also offers many services in one app (very much like what Grab does). But unlike Grab, LINE was initially established as a messaging platform.
It wasn’t too tricky for LINE to switch to transportation as a communications app. Line Taxi, a feature inside the app, is specially designed to let users directly contact taxis using GPS.
Like its competitors, LINE is also an app that includes food delivery among its transport services. But a unique characteristic of this function is how LINE delivers food. While most of its competitors have their own riders, LINE requires the food establishment to carry out the delivery process. In 2021, LINE reported roughly 180 million users and more than 50,000 riders.
We can say that 2021 was the company’s breakthrough after generating its first profit since 2017 with more than USD 110 million. This indicates an excellent performance compared to a $411 million loss in the previous year. In the same year, they got $2.36 billion in revenue, which is 56% more than in 2020. In Southeast Asia, LINE operates in Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines.
Headquarters: Singapore Founder(s): Shopee Pte. Ltd. Year Founded: 2021
With all the hype around food delivery, Shopee decided to launch its own food delivery service. Shopee has been offering many services on its apps, such as payment solutions and grocery shopping. In 2021, the company announced ShopeeFood, which is currently being rolled out in different countries. As of writing, ShopeeFood is available in Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and soon, in Singapore.
Since it’s only new, ShopeeFood still has a lot to improve. For instance, it only covers a relatively smaller radius compared with its competitors in Southeast Asia. Despite that, the company has received a lot of positive feedback for its orders and payments.
However, problems with rejected orders are common due to their small scope. But if you wait patiently, the delivery can be quite fast, with some orders reportedly lasting only 14 minutes. But that, of course, depends on the location and availability of riders.
As the leading e-commerce platform in Southeast Asia, Shopee has all the necessary potential to grow in the food delivery industry, given that it has its own online payment system called ShopeePay. With over 40 million monthly active users, Shopee can easily promote its food delivery feature through promotions and partnerships, which Shopee is well-versed in.
For instance, in Indonesia—one of ShopeeFood’s first markets—the company gave away money incentives to motivate riders to maintain an excellent performance level. Since Shopee also has hotel booking, telco services, delivery, and many more features, adding food delivery is only the logical next step to becoming a super-app.
What’s great about the platform is that they offer a 24-hour service. ShopeeFood is not an external app, meaning users can access it through the main app, Shopee. Since the feature is new, ShopeeFood’s parent company, Sea, reported an over $400 million loss, with a large portion spent on marketing. But with the Shopee app’s solid market in Southeast Asia, ShopeeFood is setting an intense competition in Malaysia and Vietnam.
Headquarters: Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam Founder(s): Be Group Year Founded: 2018
On December 17, 2018, Be Group Corporation launched its ride-hailing service, beCar. The company works by partnering with taxi operators through the company’s beTaxi. As per the latest report by the company, beCar already has 9 million users and about 100,000 drivers.
Although the company is available only in Vietnam, there may be gradual expansion if the company continues to grow. Right now, beCar is the top competitor of Grab in the country, achieving 30% of the market share.
The company was founded primarily to address the Vietnamese cities’ problems with traffic congestion and public transportation concerns. The founders saw the costly ride-hailing costs in the country as potential. By establishing partnerships, the company aims to promote local businesses by providing a ride-sharing platform.
What makes beCar stand out from its competitors is the low-cost, wide-ranging service it provides. Users can book a ride across provinces. Aside from cars, you may also opt for bikes and taxis through beBikes and beTaxi. Although most of its competitors offer food delivery, beCar is limited to ride-hailing and delivery only.
On average, there are 350,000 transactions completed on beCar every day. beCar has an estimated revenue of less than $5 million. With over 2,000 unique daily users, it is predicted to double within the next four years.
Headquarters: London, England Founder(s): Will Shu, Greg Orlowski Year Founded: 2013
Deliveroo is a food delivery company based in England. It operates in several areas of Europe, the Middle East, and some parts of Southeast Asia. After its launch in Singapore, the company made its way onto the list of top food delivery apps in the region.
Deliveroo accepts orders via the app, then lets registered self-employed riders take and deliver orders by bicycle and motorcycle. The company then charges customers for every order. In 2017, the company launched its subscription/premium service that gives customers incentives, like unlimited free delivery.
Aside from ready-to-eat foods, Deliveroo is also a popular online platform for grocery shopping. In 2020, the company included over 800 household products in the app, including fruits, veggies, dairy, snacks, and beverages, through partnerships with specialty grocery stores.
During the COViD-19 Pandemic, the number of riders in Deliveroo in Singapore— its only market in Southeast Asia— rose to over 7,000, with more than 1,000 new drivers registered in the app. The company also has 2,000 partner restaurants in the region.
Despite the company’s promising start, Deliveroo has yet to make a profit. The startup has been experiencing yearly losses, which have fortunately reduced from $300 million in 2019 to $200 million in 2020.
The company opened its initial public offering, which was dubbed the worst IPO but eventually became a success after its valuation rose to $7.6 billion. As the company’s good standing in Singapore continues, it may soon penetrate the neighboring countries.
Headquarters: Singapore Founder(s): Comfort Group and DelGro Year Founded: 2003
Comfort is a ride-hailing company founded in 2003, resulting from a merger between Comfort Group and DelGro. Before that, Comfort Group operated more than 11,000 buses, taxicabs, and car rentals in Singapore. On the other hand, while running an MRT line in Singapore, DelGro had almost 8,000 buses, cars, and taxicabs.
After the merger, the company had over $1 billion in capital and an army of transport services, including buses, taxis, car rentals, and even vehicle maintenance. It wasn’t long until ComfortDelGro, popularly known as Comfort, became the leading transport giant in the region.
Aside from Singapore, Comfort has also entered the Malaysian and Vietnamese markets and some parts of China. The company operates approximately 40,000 vehicles in its territories. Unlike its competitors in Southeast Asia, Comfort is a well-known bus operator and offers car leasing, rentals, automotive, and inspection services.
The company also has an excellent financial record, with over $210 million in profit in 2021, which is twice the previous year’s value. Earlier this year, the company received backlash after rebranding its taxis with a ‘Z’ logo—apparently a symbol of support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. ComfortDelGro immediately apologized and relaunched a new logo the same month.
Preceding the events, the company launched the app CDG Zig, which combines taxi and restaurant booking in one place. Following the rebranding of the app, CDG Zig is expected to increase brand awareness and user base in the coming years.
8. AirAsia Food
Headquarters: Sepang, Malaysia Founder(s): Toni Fernandes, DRB-HICOM Year Founded: 2020
AirAsia Food is a subsidiary of AirAsia, a famous airline company. The subsidiary started its operations in Malaysia in 2020, while the country was on a major lockdown and the demand for food delivery was surging.
The Movement Control Order in the country has hindered flights, and many cabin crews decided to support local businesses through food delivery. AirAsia Food has partnered with over 500 restaurants within three months and served 15,000 orders.
The company takes pride in its zero-commission model, which provides transparency and empowerment to customers. They also allow their partner merchants to deliver their food to up to 60 kilometers, a significant coverage compared to the 15 kilometers most food delivery apps are limited to.
Although the subsidiary is only in its early stages and the number of users is still unreported, AirAsia Food relies on its over 60 million users of the AirAsia super-app. In addition, the app offers incentives through giving rewards called Big Points. When accumulated to a certain amount, big points can be converted to money to be used as order discounts.
The company reported 100 average daily orders during its first months. As of now, AirAsia Food serves certain parts of Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand’s capital, Bangkok. Despite AirAsia’s losses over the past years, the company is optimistic that they’ll eventually make their way up, with a 30% predicted growth in 2022.
As a startup, Airasia Food is highly dependent on investments. In 2021, they received $100 million in capital from BigPay, a fintech giant. They also had a stock swap with Gojek Thailand, which earned the Indonesian company a 4.8% stake in AirAsia. During the last quarter of 2021, AirAsia reported 36% of revenue growth in its digital earnings, worth $250 million.
Since AirAsia is relatively new, there is only limited information about the company’s figures—such as GMV and profits—apart from the super-app in general, which includes its courier, delivery, and payment features.
Earlier this year, AirAsia launched a subscription feature in its super-app that unlocks premium offers to 200,000 subscribers. These premium offers include free food delivery to subscribers, which is expected to boost AirAsia Food’s users. According to the company’s latest report, there are more than 20,000 riders on AirAsia.