Singapore-based transport network company Grab is making a larger ecosystem play with its latest deals.
Grab along with others has partnered autonomous vehicle technology startup Drive.ai in a $15 million deal even as it struck another investment in oBike.
Besides its interests in transport, it has also extended the scope of its business to encompass financial technology, following its $100 million acquisition of Kudo, which is crucial to the firm building out its GrabPay platform.
This investment in oBike will also enable it to expand its transport service offerings, with a TechCrunch report citing a source familiar with the matter indicating that it backed oBike as part of a $45 million Series B round announced in August.
Incidentally, Chinese transport service firm Didi Chuxing – Grab’s long-term backer – is an investor in Chinese ride-sharing service Ofo, which competes directly with oBike.
Grab’s investment in Drive.ai will enable its international expansion, as well as the establishment of a Singapore office in the coming months. Previously, Grab had partnered with another autonomous vehicle startup, NuTonomy, to deploy vehicles in Singapore.
The investment is complementary and will involve Grab assisting the firm with its evaluation of the local market for deployment of its techology platform, including facilitation of partnerships with government agencies and other local businesses.
In an interaction with TechCrunch, Drive.ai CEO Sameep Tandon elaborated: “When innovations happen in the region, basically they start in Singapore and then move out to other places within the region, whether it’s Indonesia, Vietnam or China.”
“What’s also really interesting to us about Singapore is they have this sort of existential problem here – for them autonomous driving is not a matter of ‘if,’ it’s a matter of ‘when.’ They have this high population density in a very small physical area, and the extra challenges that go along with that,” he added.
The city-state’s government and transport organisations have been highly supportive of self-driving technology enterprises and is working with a number of technology firms in the autonomous vehicles space to test and refine the technology and its deployment in Singapore’s urban environment.
Additionally, it has entered into a partnership with Singapore Airlines (SIA) to integrate their mobile apps in order to offer enhanced convenience to customers when travelling to the airport in six countries across Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
This will enable SIA customers to book Grab rides through the SingaporeAir mobile app to the airport seven days before their scheduled flight, either on-demand or in advance.
Members of SIA’s KrisFlyer and Grab’s GrabRewards programmes will also enjoy additional benefits under the partnership. GrabRewards members have the flexibility to convert their GrabRewards points into KrisFlyer miles.
Commenting on the partnership, Jason Thompson, Head of GrabPay said, “By integrating Grab’s and SIA’s loyalty programmes, customers can look forward to using their points when they plan for their next holiday. This partnership is a significant recognition by one of the most prestigious airlines in the world and I’m incredibly excited about what we’re going to achieve together.”