Grab has come a long way since its inception as a taxi-hailing app to provide safer transport options to Malaysians—especially women—a decade ago.
Today, Grab is a well-loved superapp that serves one in 20 people across Southeast Asia, providing mobility, delivery, and financial services to eight countries and 488 cities across the region. In 2021, Grab grew into a public company, listed on Nasdaq under the ticker symbol ‘GRAB.’
GGV is one of Grab’s earliest investors, with our managing partner Jixun Foo spearheading the investment. What started out as an investor-startup relationship eventually blossomed into a friendship as Jixun became personally acquainted with Grab CEO and Co-founder Anthony Tan.
In this article, we walk through GGV and Grab’s partnership through Jixun and Anthony’s recent catch-up (see video here), where they embarked on a GrabFood delivery run from GrabKitchen Hillview together. Along the way, the friends reminisced about both old times and new, exploring how Grab has been shaped by its purpose and culture over the years.
Longtime friends Anthony (front) and Jixun (back) out on a GrabFood delivery run together.
Jixun and Anthony first met in 2014. As Jixun related in his reflective piece on Grab, Anthony had made a strong first impression as a charismatic man brimming with confidence and a burning desire to drive positive change in Southeast Asia.
Despite being the scion of an influential automobile empire in Malaysia, Anthony was determined to strike out and make his own way in the world.
A few years later, Jixun helped Grab make the superapp leap. After observing the explosive growth of other platform companies following the launch of their proprietary e-wallets, Jixun encouraged Anthony to do the same for Grab.
Grab has truly blossomed to become a comprehensive lifestyle gateway, meeting its consumers’ everyday needs across the board. Apart from enabling consumers to order breakfast, lunch, and dinner from the convenience of their phones, Grab also lets them make transport arrangements, pay their bills and shop online.
Anthony (left) and Jixun (right) having a chat after their delivery run.
Grab is driven by a single mission: to drive Southeast Asia forward by creating economic empowerment for everyone. Along with its core values—Heart, Hunger, Honour, and Humility— Grab’s mission is encapsulated within a set of guidelines known as “The Grab Way.”
The Grab Way not only helps Grabbers to understand the company’s direction, but also lays out the key principles that they should hold fast as they chart Grab’s journey.
One of these key principles is the seeking of ground truths. These are unique insights that can only be gathered by directly engaging with users and partners first-hand.
Seeking these ground truths is especially important to Anthony. That’s why he makes it a point to personally go on delivery runs, work as a kitchen runner at restaurants, or take to the roads to meet with driver and merchant partners. Through these activities, Anthony gains a deeper understanding of the lives of Grab’s users and partners, and how they interact with Grab’s app.
As Anthony shared during his delivery run with Jixun:
“By understanding the real pains that our delivery partners go through, we have a lot more empathy in the way we treat them…and we’ll serve our partners better. We’ll build better products for our customers once we know the ground truth(s).”
Anthony is not alone in partaking in these immersion activities. Grab’s employees at all levels also participate in them. Such activities have even gone on to become a staple part of the company’s onboarding programme.
Another key principle that informs Grab’s mission is servant leadership. Put simply, servant leadership entails the need for leaders to empower and uplift those around them, offering coaching and guidance to help them succeed.
“I believe a key part of my role is to help the team understand Grab’s purpose, ensure that each member has a voice, and nurture our team to do the best work of our lives.”
With this understanding of servant leadership in mind, Anthony focuses on building a strong leadership team, and providing them with the necessary support to navigate changing contexts and make the right decisions.
It is by empowering teams to take ownership of Grab’s challenges that they are motivated to relentlessly pursue better solutions.
Driven by its mission and culture, Grab is well poised to continue striving for excellence in all that it does. But it believes it is just at the first leg of its journey—there is still so much more it wants to do for Southeast Asia and its people.
While its journey ahead will not be easy, Grab is confident in its ability to weather any and all storms that come its way.
At present, it is working toward becoming a triple bottom line company, in line with its recognition that climate change can have a huge impact on the communities in Southeast Asia.
As one of Grab’s earliest investors, we at GGV are excited to see how the company will continue to develop well into the future.