SoftBank pays $250M fare to hitch ride with GrabTaxi

Japan’s SoftBank invested $250 million in GrabTaxi, one of the major rivals to Uber and Hailo in Southeast Asia.According to TechCrunch, the funding is likely to value GrabTaxi at more than $1 billion, with SoftBank now the largest investor in the company.The funding takes the company’s capital investment past the $340 million mark for 2014. It previously secured $65 million in October, $15 million of Series B funding in May and $10 million in series A investment in April.SoftBank previously invested $210 million in Indian car booking service Ola [1], as part of a $10 billion commitment to start-ups in India.Founded in 2012, GrabTaxi is available in 17 cities across Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia.The core service connects registered taxis with passengers, in much the same way as Hailo. It also offers a private car service more akin to Uber’s offering. It is even trialling motorbike taxis in Vietnam.The company claims to have 500,000 monthly active users from 2.5 million downloads. It has 60,000 drivers on its network with an average of three bookings made per second.GrabTaxi CEO and co-founder Anthony Tan told TechCrunch that the investment will be used to strengthen efforts in existing markets and continue its expansion across Southeast Asia.The level of funding is dwarfed by Uber, which raised $1.2 billion earlier this year, giving it a valuation of $18.2 billion. Recent reports suggested it is lining up funding that would see its value double to between $35 billion and $40 billion.Uber is present in all of the same markets as GrabTaxi, offering the high-end Uber Black services and the cheaper UberX.It has identified Southeast Asia as a region that can drive future growth [2] for the business. The service was deployed in 12 Asian cities in 2013 — starting with Singapore.Both services could be impacted by government plans in Singapore to regulate third-party taxi-booking apps [3]. Reuters reported that the plans include capping fees and requiring the companies to only work with licensed taxis and drivers.Hailo has also said it aims to grow in Asia, after exiting North America in October [4] due to regulatory issues restricting its ability to compete with the likes of Uber and Lyft. The service recently launched in Singapore [5].Hailo CEO Tom Barr said authorities in Asia “see more importance in how the taxi industry supports the citizenry”, resulting in “a friendlier environment to grow in”.[1] [2] [3] [4] [5]