SINGAPORE: In a June 1 (Thursday) profile of Anthony Tan, the Grab CEO and co-founder tells the story of the super-app’s beginnings, how it went from pitching his ride-hailing idea to cab drivers in Kuala Lumpur, his hometown, in 2012, to its “street fighting” start-up days, and now, to becoming one of the most important companies in South East Asia.

But not everyone close to Tan, it seems, was an early adopter.

The TIME piece tells of how the Grab co-founder, born in Malaysia and took up Singapore citizenship in 2016, had asked his father to back the company he founded with classmate Tan Hooi Ling, only to be told “your head is in the clouds.”

With his mother, Khor Swee Wah, however, he had more success. As he told TIME, “Moms are amazing, right?”

While Khor was as skeptical as her husband, Tan Heng Chew, the president of Tan Chong Motor, she nevertheless agreed to support her son, who had chosen not to join his father’s firm.

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“My dad basically disowned me. I thought, I’m not going to grovel. I’m going to fight and make sure we win. That was a pivotal moment,” Tan told TIME, admitting that such a move was daunting for a young man born into privilege.

But the gamble has more than paid off.

Grab, with a market cap of US$12 billion (S$16 billion), has expanded from ride-hailing to food delivery services, insurance, and travel bookings, among other ventures, and operates in over 500 cities across eight countries.

The TIME piece notes that Grab has also forayed into digital banking. GXS bank was launched last September and offered ease of obtaining loans.

“For Tan, the need was made plain by a conversation at church. A fellow parishioner confessed to spending a stint in Singapore’s Changi prison for being a loan shark’s goon, who would splash pig’s blood on debtors’ homes to intimidate them. ‘He said there were thousands of people like him in Singapore,’ says Tan. ‘It’s fundamentally wrong to charge somebody 20% a day interest because you’re putting them in a real poverty trap.’”

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The article underlines Tan’s desire to economically uplift others, quoting the Grab co-founder as saying, “When we create more inclusion, society benefits. What’s good for society is good for business.” /TISG

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