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 dollars 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 USA to attract talents and hired the best minds like Mr. Wei Zhu ex-Facebook creator. Inevitably and quickly, 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's progress and all its new developments got to do with a taxi driver like me?
Yes, it does and a lot!.
Initially, I love Grab simply because she gave me call-booking jobs that were never available before and improved my income considerably. More importantly, she dethroned the monopolistic COMFORT as the "big-brother" in the taxi industry.
Within a short period of a year or two, Grab became the most popular taxi booking application in Singapore, kicking Hailo, EasyTaxi and other out of the market. Once Grab dominates the taxi industry, she makes the common mistakes that most corporation does. Among others, I think Grab had lost its "human dimension" 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 nor explantion.
Sad to say, many GrabTaxi drivers are doing more jobs through JustGrab and driving more hours but 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 very much harder to find. Hence, a mind-boggling majority of the 26,000 taxi drivers have no choice but to stick with GrabTaxi 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 GrabTaxi 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 GrabTaxi drivers whom they get only 10% cut.
Suppose a customer books a Standard Taxi ride via GradTaxi, 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 based on 20% commission. 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 and GraxTaxi eventually.
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 200,000 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 GrabTaxi drivers are removed from JustGrab and all these jobs go to GrabCar via 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 GrabTaxi 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 GrabTaxi 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 GrabTaxi 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 and hardship.
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.
Three weeks had passed with my hard-earned earnings still withheld, while I wait for Grab's decision. Even Dr. Tan Cheng Bock's appeal case in the apex Appeal Court took less than three weeks to come to a verdit. I hope the senior management in Grab will investigate this case of unreasonable delay in suspension decision making. I wonder who holds the powerful function and authority to decide on suspension and termination? Is it in the hand of senior management staff or junior Tom, Dick and Harry?.
How could Mr. Anothny Tan allows such a harsh, inefficient 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?
Unsurprisingly, when the only rival Uber has abandoned taxi driver to focus on the money spinning private hire car business, Grab now completely dominates the taxi booking platform. They are no different from COMFORT whose authoritarian style of management is well known among taxi drivers. If Grab is not careful, she would end up like COMFORT with massive drivers defecting to a new rival platform or simply dumping the use of her app.
I think in the next decade or so, very few people will hail taxis from the streets or queue at taxi stands when online booking of private hire cars are relatively cheaper, easier and faster than standard taxis. If taxi uncles want to survive in this cut throat trade, they must jump ship from "taxi-uncle" to be GrabCar or Uber-X driver. It will mean the downhill slide of the traditional cabby vocation and eventual demise of taxis providers like COMFORT and the rest of the players.
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.