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Grab invests $100m in Myanmar in effort to shut out Uber

Tim Maytom

Ride-hailing service Grab has announced plans to invest $100m ($78m) over the next three years in the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar in an attempt to secure the market from rival Uber.

The company plans to invest in expanding its ride-hailing services to include more cities across the country, as well as rolling out other products from its suite of services including GrabPay, its mobile payment solution, and building up a team of up to 200 local talents to support and manage its operations in the country.

Consumers in Myanmar had extremely limited access to the internet until 2015 due to military controls. However, free elections have freed up the market and dozens of mobile operators and tech companies have flooded into the region.

The dramatic policy change regarding internet access under the new government and the resulting competition for new consumers has seen the cost of a SIM card drop from $1,500 to less than $5 in three years, prompting the country's 55m citizens to adopt mobile en masse. There are now more registered SIM cards than people in Myanmar, and with no real legacy of fixed internet access, it's a truly mobile-first market.

Since launching in Myanmar's largest city Yangon in March, Grab has become the leading ride-hailing provider and one of the city's most popular transport options, with control of the largest licensed taxi network in the industry and 25,000 unique bookings every day.

The firm has also become an important creator of economic opportunity in Yangon, with more than 6,000 screened and licensed drivers across the city. Driver partners' monthly earnings has increased by an average of 240 per cent since May 2017, and drivers are also provided with free personal accident insurance and discounted mobile data plans.

"Grab in Yangon has taken off at an incredible pace," said Anthony Tan, co-founder and CEO of Grab. "This demonstrates the massive and immediate potential of this fast-growing market. Our commitment to address transport challenges with locally-suited and innovative solutions that create more social and economic opportunity works well for both Grab and our local communities. This is already one of our fastest-growing markets, and we are very excited to deepen our commitment into Myanmar."

Among Grab's confirmed plans for the country are expanding its recently-introduced corporate solution, Grab for Work, which is already used by over 8,000 corporations in the region, and the introduction of GrabPay for local passengers. International travellers using Grab drivers can already pay using cashless payment.

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