Ride-hailing company GrabTaxi, an Uber-like service in Southeast Asia, is hoping to make it easier and cheaper for people to get to their destination as it launches GrabHitch, its new carpooling service.
The Malaysia-based company said on Wednesday the service will use a smartphone app to connect car owners with potential passengers, who will pay around half the cost as they would for the same ride in a cab or private UberX. GrabHitch will roll out in Singapore by the end of this year, with GrabTaxi noting that plans to expand into five more countries in 2016, overcoming some hurdles in the process.
“It’s all about critical mass, if you don’t cross it, it will never happen,” said Anthony Tan, CEO and co-founder. “We’re fortunate to have that mass and reach. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s not something we’re afraid to do.”
The launch underscores the growing popularity and competitive nature of carpooling services around the world. In China, Uber’s UberCommute pairs passengers with drivers who are driving long distances in the same direction so that the cost of the trip can be split between two or more parties. The service competes directly with Chinese rival Didi Kuaidi’s identical Shun Feng Che service. Meanwhile, in India, Uber competitor Ola has begun offering a carpooling service to compete with UberPool, which matches multiple users going to similar destinations and places them on the same ride, allowing them to split fares amongst each other.
Like customers of other e-hailers, GrabHitch users will tap the mobile app to find others who are travelling to the same destination and request a ride. The app also allows passengers to specify their preference for the gender of the driver.
In accordance with local laws, those providing rides are limited to only two a day. In the event of an accident, drivers will be covered by their own personal insurance, though GrabTaxi will provide a safety hotline for passengers.
Launched in Malaysia in 2011, GrabTaxi has expanded into 28 cities in six countries. Its app has been downloaded over 9 million times, and the company recently raised $350 million in funding.
While GrabTaxi plans to expand the carpooling services to the other five countries it has a presence in, Malaysia, Phillipines, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia, it will have to adapt its strategies as they each have different regulatory frameworks.
“Like all the products we invest in, we want to expand it to all the markets we’re in,” said co-founder Tan Hooi Ling. “Will GrabHitch exist in these countries? Yes, but that’s where we will localised it. We’re gonna make GrabHitch the best it can be.”