In anticipation of increased demand owing to economic reopening, Grab Philippines is asking the government to increase its operating capacity to speed up a rather “super slow” recovery from the coronavirus onslaught.
The local unit of the Singapore-based ride-hailing giant is appealing to transport regulators to hike its operating capacity “to at least 30% from what we have right now” to meet renewed demand triggered by easing mobility restrictions, Grace Vera Cruz, country head, told reporters on Wednesday.
Cruz did not disclose how many Grab drivers are currently allowed on the country’s roads, but she said the number is “definitely not the same pre-pandemic.” As of October 26, there are 25,495 ride-hailing vehicles operating in the country.
An increase in operating capacity would help quicken Grab’s recovery from the pandemic, which severely strained its transport business — the company’s bread and butter.
The health crisis’ impact on the company was so bad that it had to lay off over 300 employees in its Southeast Asian base, including the Philippines, last year. Apart from the Philippines and its home country Singapore, the SoftBank-backed superapp has presence in Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
At the same time, the pandemic’s damage was still too massive to take despite a boom on Grab’s food delivery arm, GrabFood, from stay-at-home consumers. According to Cruz, GrabFood is working on expanding its geographical footprint in the country next year to increase its competitive edge against its rival Food Panda, which has a bigger presence in the Philippines at present.
GrabFood is currently operating in “more or less 100 cities,” Cruz said.
But a higher operating capacity would only do so little if passengers remain scared to commute. “People remember us now for GrabFood because our core business took a significant hit in the pandemic. It hasn’t recovered,” Cruz said.
“It’s super slow: we see a lot of hesitancy in the riding public to go back into riding,” she added.