Grab plans USD 150 million AI research to speed up regional growth

Building AI to win the superapp race.

Southeast Asia’s ride-hailing giant Grab said Thursday it would invest USD 150 million into artificial intelligence research next year to speed up its sprawling businesses, now ranging from ride-hailing to mobile payment, among others.

Tan Hooi Ling, one of the company’s co-founders, disclosed the plan at a Bloomberg event held on Thursday in Singapore, adding that the investment will also be used towards improving its fraud prevention and natural language processing (NLP) tech, according to Bloomberg.

Grab has already poured USD 100 million into its tech development amid heated competition with its regional nemesis Gojek.

Grab, the first decacorn in the region, hopes the latest investment can help it further accelerate its business growth in food delivery, digital payments, and digital content across Southeast Asia.

Speaking with Bloomberg, co-founder Tan Hooi Ling explained that Grab is working with Microsoft to better deliver NLP so that it can better tailor its services to users in various markets.

In March this year, Grab launched a fraud detection and prevention system through the Grab Defence suite in Indonesia. With this, it aims to reduce the fraud rate from the current 5% to less than 1%. The latest round of investment is likely meant to further improve on this existing system.

Grab’s ultimate goal is to create a “super-app”— a one-stop platform to help users address all their daily needs. It has already developed its own payment tool, GrabPay, and is said to be mulling to enter into digital banking in Singapore. Last year, it also launched Grab Ventures to bet on promising startups in Southeast Asia. According to its website it has invested in five startups till now, of which two are its own subsidiaries—Grab Fresh and Grab Wheels.

Aside from continuously improving its services and offerings, Grab is also engaged in a neck-to-neck battle with Indonesia’s Gojek, where they compete on multiple fronts with different strategies to achieve the same goal of becoming a “super-app”.