Singapore’s Grab needs to watch out for Indonesia’s ride-hailing giant Go-Jek, which has been attracting keen attention from Singaporean drivers. Go-Jek yesterday announced the opening of a portal where drivers can pre-register before the official launch of the platform in late November. Many of the drivers who signed up were dissatisfied Grab drivers in search of a better deal.
In response to “a huge amount of driver interest” in Singapore, Go-Jek is boldly opening its doors to begin the process of driver recruitment in competitor Grab’s home turf.
A few hours after the portal opened, Go-Jek, which declined to reveal the exact numbers, reported that thousands of Singaporean drivers had pre-registered, many of them unhappy Grab drivers who hope that Go-Jek will be an improvement in terms of pay and schedules.
Go-Jek is looking to develop solid rapport with drivers. In a press release on Monday, October 29, the Indonesian ride-hailing firm said “At Go-Jek, we understand that driver-partners are crucial to successful operations, which is why we’re looking forward to building strong, engaging relationships with the driver community.”
Drivers who pre-register on the portal are required to provide their contact information, which Go-Jek will use to notify them with details of the application process to join Go-Jek Singapore. The launch of the Singapore branch has been pegged for the end of next month.
Grab driver Johnson Koh, 46, was one of the Grab drivers who signed up to be a part of the Go-Jek driving community. He expressed dissatisfaction at Grab’s working conditions, which include overly long hours (12-18 per day, to make ends meet) and low pay. Having previously been driving for Uber, the switch to Grab was a disappointing one, Koh said.
For Koh, who has four children, good pay for the right number of working hours is a balance that is important to reach and maintain. He also spoke of technical difficulties he has encountered with the Grab app.
“We are paid much worse than with Uber, though I have been working longer hours. Plus, if drivers choose or cancel rides, we get locked out of the Grab app, which is unfair because we are still paying car rental daily,” said Koh.
A recent poll conducted by the Singapore Private Hire Car Drivers & Riders Community Facebook page, 86 percent of around 1,200 respondents said they want to leave Grab and move to Go-Jek.
Go-Jek has big plans and is aiming to expand further than Singapore. In May, it announced that it was going invest US$500 million (S$671 million) in its international expansion strategy “in the next few months” in the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Go-Jek will offer ride-hailing services in the beginning, but the Indonesian firm’s end goal is to “replicate the multiple-service business model that has made it the market leader in Indonesia”.
Go-Jek’s expansion spells trouble for Grab, which is already having problems keeping its drivers satisfied.
Singapore University of Social Sciences transport economist Walter Theseira said that Go-Jek is sure to court drivers and riders in the early days of the expansion. However, Theseira also pointed out that this model is not sustainable and one company is likely to acquire the other.
“This is a winner-takes-all kind of market,” he said.
National University of Singapore Business School’s Associate Professor Lawrence Loh said that drivers are the most crucial part of the team.
“Having the drivers is so critical that it is almost the make-or-break of success for all ride-hailing platforms,” said Loh.
Lim Kell Jay, head of Grab Singapore, told another media source last week that Grab knows that its drivers are unhappy and acknowledged that more can be done to make working conditions.
Grab will have to step up its game; Go-Jek is just around the corner.
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