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Asia-based taxi booking app GrabTaxi raises $90 million in funding

The Uber competitor is showing strong growth in Southeast Asia, with 400,000 active monthly users and two bookings made every second.


Malaysian company GrabTaxi has raised $90 million in funding in the last 12 months and that's big news in this part of the world. Southeast Asia plays hosts to 600 million people -- twice the population of the US -- and while the app only has 400,000 active users a month, that's plenty of space for growth.

US-based investment firm Tiger Global led this current round of funding, with Hillhouse Capital Management joining existing investors such as Qunar, GGV and Vertex Ventures. Tiger Global is notable for its investments in properties such as Indian online retailer Flipkart, streaming service Netflix and the community-driven Q&A site Quora.

The money raised will be used for acquiring talent as well as driver loyalty programs. Like Uber's UberTaxi service, GrabTaxi does not have taxi fleets, and instead relies on drivers who rent from taxi companies to use their app as a platform.

While this does leave the company vulnerable to the taxi companies preventing their drivers from using the app, this has not yet happened, though CEO Anthony Tan says that some companies have "strongly discouraged" their drivers from using his company's app.

The GrabTaxi app currently operates in sixteen cities, with a beta launch for a new city in the Philippines to start soon. The app has been downloaded 2.1 million times and in the six countries that it's launched in -- Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines -- two bookings are made every second.

The company has no plans yet for outside the region -- Tan says that it makes more sense to link up the cities in the countries that the company has presence in first. It also recently launched a GrabCar service with limousine drivers to compete with Uber in the region.

With Uber getting into the taxi market with a newly launched UberTaxi in Singapore, GrabTaxi will also have more competition soon. Hailo, which has exited the US market, will reportedly launch in the island nation next week as well, offering commuters more options to book a cab.

It's likely it won't be long before the taxi companies strike back, and how this will affect the companies behind these booking apps remains to be seen.