GrabTaxi, which claims to be the largest taxi app in Southeast Asia, has raised its Series A round from Vertex Ventures, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Temasek, an investment company owned by Singapore’s government. The startup’s CEO and founder Anthony Tan declined to disclose the exact amount of the funding, but said it was more than $1 million.
The startup launched in 2012 and has since opened offices in Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia (where it is called MyTeksi). GrabTaxi will use its new funding to expand into new cities. The app currently has 250,000 monthly users and over one million downloads. It claims to book a taxi every two seconds.
GrabTaxi competes in the same space as several domestic taxi-calling apps, as well as Uberand Rocket Internet’s Easy Taxi, both of which are aggressively expanding in Southeast Asia.
But Tan downplays the so-called “taxi app war.” He says that the demand in cities like Singapore or Bangkok is high enough to support several players and that the main challenge for taxi apps is not competing with each other, but changing human behavior.
“We are all fighting to move people from taking taxis on the street, from streets hails to e-hails,” says Tan.
“Our challenge is convincing people to move from street hailing to call centers, from SMS all the way to an app,” he adds.
While Uber focuses on its luxury car services in Southeast Asia and Rocket Internet is busy taking Easy Taxi into emerging markets throughout Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, Tan says GrabTaxi differentiates by closely examining the needs of local customers. In order to attract riders, GrabTaxi has focused on two things: convenience in inclement weather and safety, especially for women hailing cabs at night.
The app uses drivers from different taxi networks and automatically shows riders which cars are nearest and have the most reliable drivers using an algorithm that includes variables like distance, traffic, and quality rankings. The app charges a low booking fee (for example, two ringgits, or 61 cents, in Malaysia). Like other taxi apps, GrabTaxi allows riders to rate their driver and track their vehicle’s movements using GPS.
Tan says that in the near future, GrabTaxi will expand into new cities within the countries it already operates in instead of new countries. For example, it just launched in Ho Chi Minh City. Cebu, the second most populous city in the Philippines, is next on the list.