Anthony Tan: The Man Behind Southeast Asia’s Superapp, Grab

In 2012, Anthony Tan co-founded Grab, which initially appeared as a ride-hailing app in Malaysia. Over the past decade, it has transformed into a super-app, offering a wide range of services, including banking, loans, transportation, and food delivery across Southeast Asia. In 2018, Grab made a significant move by acquiring Uber's Southeast Asian business.

Serving as the CEO of his company now, Anthony Tan sees himself as a "street fighter" in the competitive tech industry, despite his privileged background. He's not afraid to get hands-on, even working in one of Grab's food vendor kitchens to understand the business from the ground up.

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In a recent interview with TIME, Tan emphasized Grab's commitment to being a triple-bottom-line corporation, focusing on social, financial, and environmental outcomes. He highlighted how Grab's low-cost motorbike rides have addressed traffic and income challenges in Asia, benefiting both customers and drivers.

One of Grab's key differentiators is its deep localization. Tan explained how Grab introduced services like GrabDurian, catering to local tastes and preferences. This approach reflects a profound understanding of the diverse Southeast Asian market.

Interestingly, Tan's Christianity plays a role in his leadership principles, emphasizing servant leadership and social impact. Grab's initiatives, such as GrabPay, aim to solve real societal problems, like reducing cash in the system and improving driver safety.

When questioned about Grab's presence in Myanmar, Tan defended the company's decision to operate there, emphasizing the importance of providing economical, safe, ethical, and moral transportation options.

Reflecting on Grab's IPO in December 2021, Tan acknowledged the importance of timing in the market. He discussed the changing financial landscape, emphasizing the need to increase profitability in a world of shifting capital costs.

Tan believes that the concept of a super-app, where one platform serves multiple needs, is practical and customer-centric. Grab's focus on the driver as a customer has led to innovations like in-app insurance and integrated financial services.

Looking ahead, Tan believes that the idea of a super-app can extend beyond Southeast Asia. He anticipates that people will become increasingly obsessed with super-apps, but the key lies in designing services around customers and partners, simplifying their lives rather than burdening them with multiple apps.

As CEO, Tan's leadership principles, guided by his social values and Christianity, underpin Grab's mission to provide valuable services while making a positive impact in Southeast Asia and potentially beyond.