JAKARTA, Indonesia, Feb 2 – Southeast Asian ride-hailing firm Grab on Thursday unveiled a plan to invest $700 million in Indonesia over the next four years, as transport app competition in the country accelerates.
The company, whose main service in Indonesia is an app for hailing private cars and motorbike taxis, said a key part of the investment would be opening a research and development centre.
The move ups the ante between ride-hailing services in Southeast Asia’s top economy, where the growing use of smartphones and need for motorbike taxis in traffic-choked cities has led to rising popularity of transport apps.
Singapore-headquartered Grab, considered the leading ride-hailing app in Southeast Asia, sees its main competitors in Indonesia as US firm Uber and homegrown outfit Go-Jek.
Unveiling the plan in Jakarta, Grab chief executive and co-founder Anthony Tan said: “We are excited to make this significant investment in Indonesia’s future and accelerate their transition to a fully integrated digital economy.”
The news came the same week that Grab announced it had hired the former head of Indonesia’s national police, Badrodin Haiti, to oversee corporate governance in the country.
Hiring a former top law enforcement official could help Grab with the regulatory hurdles facing ride-hailing startups in the country. Authorities have placed conditions on the services, including that they register with local partners.
As part of its new investment, Grab plans to open a research and development centre in Jakarta and hire 150 engineers over the next two years.
It will invest up to $100 million in startups and entrepreneurs as part of a “social impact” initiative aimed at bringing more Indonesians into the digital economy, Grab said in a statement.
Grab operates in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.
Its core product platform includes private cars, motorbikes and taxi-hailing services which are rapidly gaining popularity in a region that is home to over 600 million people and a rising middle class.