A year ago, Mr Anothny Tan, founder and CEO of Grab, while celebrating his investor and global partner @Didi Chuxing‘s successes in China, told his staff, among other things that:
After three years of hard and smart work, Grab expanded into many South East Asian countries and raised a few billions of investment funds from famous venture capital like Temasek Holdings.
Grab wisely invested in a new R&D facility in Singapore CBD that houses 200 engineers and data scientists. They also set up new software engineering offices in tech hub Seattle to attract talents and hired the best minds like Mr. Wei Zhu ex-Facebook creator. Inevitably, Grab developed exceedingly successful new application tools and features like JustGrab, GrabPay, GrabHitch, GrabNow and ventured into money spinner GrabCar.
Today, Grab success is beyond words and recognition.
What has Grab progress and all its new developments got to do with a taxi driver like me?
Yes, it does and a lot!.
I think Grab had lost its human touch in its management. They had forgotten Mr. Anothny Tan's our users are also people whom we care about – our families, our neighbours, our friends. And not just some digits presented on a business dashboard on the other side of the world in a different time-zone.
I reckon as a young courting couple, Grab wooed me with loving attention and generous gifts. Once married, Grab sets new rules and regulations in the name of peace, harmony and progress to regulate our partnership, turning me into a powerless housewife dependent on her husband allowance for survival.
As a partner, I have no say at what price I get paid for the service I provide. I cannot reject too low price jobs that would make me lose money. If my rejection rate is above 85%, my account gets terminated without hesitation.
Sad to say, many Grab taxi drivers are doing more jobs through JustGrab and driving more hours for less money. Is this right?. If you put yourself in the driver's shoe, you either choose a more reasonable price job to do or switch off the Grab application. But to turn off Grab application is suicidal as almost 80% of taxi rides are now through call bookings.
These days, street hailing jobs are much harder to find. Hence, a mind-boggling majority of the 26,000 taxi drivers have no choice but to stick with Grab like an oppressed housewife with kids.
Grab is aware of the prevailing taxis drivers' dilemma and the management staff is taking full advantage of it through its dealing with taxi drivers. I think Grab is contemplating to reduce or remove taxi drivers in their booming platform and focus on GrabCAR. You'll notice that all advertising money is spent on GrabCar, none for GrabTaxi.
Presently, there are more than 42,800 private-hire cars on Singapore roads, a figure which has overtaken the current taxi population of 26,000. With such massive numbers of Private Hire Car drivers in their fold and getting 20% commission from their ride-fare, any manager would surely want to push more jobs to these drivers than to taxi drivers whom they get only 10% cut.
Suppose a customer books a standard taxi ride, Grab gets merely a fixed 50 cents administrative charge from the driver. If a GrabCar had done this job instead of a GradTaxi, Grab would earn at least $1.00, which is double and could be higher depending on the ride fare. Simply said, Grab can make much more money from GrabCar than GrabTaxi. For this reason alone, Grab is tempted to remove the "Standard Taxi" option from their booking platform.
In around June 2013, Grab claimed to be doing one booking every eight seconds or 10,000 a day. Today, it has gone up to 100,000 a day with rivals like Hailo and EasyTaxi out of the market.
Assuming that on an average Grab collects $5 a day from a Grabtaxi driver, based on 10% commission from 10,000 taxi drivers using JustGrab, Grab would profit $50,000/day. Multiply $50,000 x 30 days a month, its $1.5 million. If taxis drivers are removed from JustGrab and all these jobs go to Private Hire Car that has a 20% commission, Grab profit would double to $3 million a month.
Like all corporate business, maximizing profit is the greatest ultimate motivator.
Who cares about过河拆桥.
A Chinese idiom that says "To destroy the bridge after crossing the river. It means to abandon one's benefactor upon achieving one's goal.
Now, Grab does not fancy taxi drivers!. They are like COMFORT, getting rid of taxi drivers at the slightest mistake they made or a customer feedback or trivial complaint.
Grab is unfeeling like a robot and lets machines manage their relations and dealings with drivers. When a driver rejects most jobs offered to him and his acceptance rating drops miserably low or when a customer triggers a feedback or complaint on their website, the driver's account is instantly de-activated (suspended) without warning nor explanation. The driver could be fetching a passenger when his/her account suddenly gets deactivated, resulting in driver unable to collect the fare and passenger unable to make a further booking.
Recently, I had the exact upsetting experience when a customer feedback to Grab that my taxi number plate was different from that shown in my booking application. My account was suspended instantly without notice or warning.
On calling and speaking to an Indian national on the phone, I was told to submit an appeal through their website, with nobody knowing the reason for my suspension. How could I submit an appeal and defend myself if I'm oblivious of the charge for my suspension?. Meanwhile, Grab withheld my earning of about $500 indefinitely without regard to my financial needs.
After 4 days and upon knowing the reason for my suspension, I re-appealed and explained that I was driving SMRT's TaxiShare that allows a driver to book and drive their taxis AS and WHEN we like. without a rental contract.
Under this flexible rental scheme, booking of taxis is on a first come, first serve basis and subject to taxi availability. I could be driving the same model of Toyota Pirus for four days with four different taxi number plate. I usually call my customer when my number plate is different from that shown on the booking application before I pick them up. Most of my customers appreciate my advance notice and my service rating is close to perfection at 4.87 out of a maximum of 5.
I wonder why a customer would be unhappy when the only change is the taxi number plate while the taxi driver, taxi model and taxi fare remain unchanged.
Nevertheless, Grab should not have suspended my account indiscriminately without first checking with me. Worst, they demanded that I drop by their office at Midview for investigation by their disciplinary officer, who refused to tell me the reason for the investigation and my suspension.
Honestly, I'm deeply distressed by the unprofessional work attitude of Grab ground staffs and is prepared to leave GrabTaxi even if proven that I've not committed any offence against my customer. A week had passed with my earnings withheld and I'm still waiting for Grab's decision.
How could Mr. Anothny Tan allows such a harsh and robotic management style to prevails in his company when he is a strong advocate of the human touch. What happens to his values and vision of friendly tenet in his company?
When strong competitors like Uber is slow;y abandoning taxi driver too to focus on private hire car business, Grab now completely dominates the "taxi" trade and is monopolistic. They are no different from COMFORT whose authoritarian style of management is well known among taxi drivers.
I hope a brave investor will come to give Grab a wake-up call like the way Grab shook-up COMFORT and the local taxi industry three years ago.
There is certainly room for another Grab-like service here.