Uber Now Poised to Grab More of Southeast Asia

Now that Uber is shifting its focus away from China to other overseas markets, one region where it may have a better shot at overcoming a local incumbent is southeast Asia, say people involved with the company.  

In countries like Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia, Uber is going up against the early leader, Grab of Singapore, which started as an app for booking traditional taxis on demand. And Uber has an edge both in technology and in deep pockets to overtake Grab in the market for booking private cars on demand, according to people close to both companies. Previously undisclosed financial details about Grab’s business also show why Uber has reason to be confident.

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The person close to Grab said that other than in Singapore and possibly Malaysia, “the economics cannot work with the current levels” of wealth and car ownership, or lack thereof, in the region. It’s a five to 10-year bet, this person says. India appears to be a similar scenario. “It’s betting that if you have a leadership position in a growing market, it will eventually work.” That’s why Uber has the upper hand.

Qitong Hu commented on this article.
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Grab has at least two and a half years of cash left if it doesn’t raise more money.