SINGAPORE: Ride-hailing giant Grab on Thursday (Nov 8) announced a strategic partnership with Thai lender Kasikornbank (KBank) to offer its mobile wallet GrabPay and other financial services in Thailand by early next year.
A co-branded mobile payment app called GrabPay by KBank will be made available in the Grab app by early-2019, the companies said in a joint press release.
The tie-up marks the expansion of Grab’s mobile wallet into the sixth country in Southeast Asia as the Singapore-based firm looks to expand out of ride-hailing and become a major financial services player in the region. The other countries are Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines.
KBank is also investing US$50 million (about S$69 million) in Grab, joining the likes of Toyota Motor and Hyundai Motor as backers in Grab’s ongoing fundraising round.
“This partnership makes Grab Financial the first mobile payments platform to launch e-money-licensed payments services across ASEAN-6 and underlines the strength of our partnership-based strategy,” said Grab Financial’s senior managing director Reuben Lai. Grab Financial is Grab’s financial technology (FinTech) platform set up in March.
KBank’s president Patchara Samalapa said the bank looks forward to “developing innovative financial products" so as to tap on the region's rapidly growing digital economy.
With the launch next year, Grab users will be able to pay for transport and delivery services, transfer funds to other users, purchase products and services online, and make QR-code payments in restaurants and shops across Thailand.
Beyond the wallet, users will also be able to enjoy “seamless services” when features from KBank’s “K Plus” app and Grab’s app are integrated next year.
In addition, both firms will jointly offer products, such as loans to merchants and access to Grab for Business to help improve corporate transport expense management, the press release said.
"BRING ASEAN CLOSER" VIA A SINGLE WALLET
Grab, which started off six years ago as an underdog in the region’s ride-hailing space, has since become the dominant player in Southeast Asia with its merger earlier this year with US rival Uber.
It has also been expanding into financial services over the last two years by acquiring companies and forming partnerships to spread usage of its mobile wallet.
It launched Grab Financial in March through a joint venture with Japanese credit card company Credit Saison to provide loans and lending services in the region. Separately, it inked a partnership with Chubb to offer insurance coverage to its 2.6 million drivers.
Over the past months, it announced a string of strategic partnerships with banks and payment players across Southeast Asia, including Malaysia’s Maybank, Indonesia’s mobile wallet OVO and Vietnam’s digital payments service Moca.
It also has a tie-up with payments processor Mastercard to issue pre-paid cards for the region’s unbanked and underbanked population.
Grab's ambition is to “bring ASEAN closer” via a single wallet that will allow the procurement of goods and services, as well as transfer of money, to be done in a "seamless and affordable" manner, said Mr Lai at a media briefing.
With its “unparalleled reach” across the region and consumer insights, the company believes that it is "best-placed" to achieve this goal, he added.
“Users don’t want a separate e-wallet for every type of purchase. By opening up our platform to leading financial institutions, we ensure our users can go beyond the Grab platform and pay for all types of services."
When asked about Grab's upcoming plans for the region, Mr Lai said the company is “very focused” on the six ASEAN countries at the moment as this is where the bulk of its consumers, merchants and drivers are.
It will, however, expand into the rest of Southeast Asia "eventually”.
While Southeast Asia bears tremendous opportunities, Grab's push into financial services is not without challenges. Apart from access to quality talent in the region, Mr Lai cited its partnership with regulators as a work in progress.
"We want to work with regulators to continue rolling out new regulations that are innovative, while protecting our economies and consumers. We are working hand in glove with them; it may take some time but it's necessary."