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SINGAPORE-BASED ride-sharing app Grab is stepping on the gas. It made two announcements on Friday: One was its mobile-payments partnership with Indonesian conglomerate Lippo Group, and the other, the extension of free rides on GrabHitch, its social car-pooling service, to Singapore users.
Under its tie-up with Lippo, both parties will develop a universal payments platform that enables users to pay for Grab rides as well as services across Lippo's retail companies via the Grab app.
Grab chief Anthony Tan told The Business Times that the partnership will be "immediately relevant" to consumers in Indonesia, which is working towards becoming a cashless society.
"We want to help the nearly 95 per cent of people in Indonesia who don't use credit cards to enjoy the seamless experience of cashless payments."
Through the mobile-payments platform, Indonesian users will be able to top up an e-money account and use their mobile phones to pay for not just their daily transport fares, but also goods and services from Lippo's network of department stores, hypermarts, cinemas, coffee shops and e-commerce shops.
Mr Tan said: "The potential of developing a mobile-payments platform in South-east Asia is limitless. The majority in South-east Asia are unbanked - but are armed with mobile phones."
The payments platform, for which Grab is the exclusive transport partner, will be rolled out in phases across Lippo's companies and integrated within the Grab app from Q4 2016.
Grab's second move - the offer of free GrabHitch rides from 12am to 11.59pm on Friday - was an apparent response to rival Uber's offer of S$5 rides on uberPOOL between 7am and 10pm, also on Friday.
Uber had announced this on Wednesday, and Grab on Thursday, sparking what appeared to be a race for the car-pooling market.
On Friday, Grab hailed the "positive" response to its free GrabHitch rides offer. More than 35,000 rides were completed by about 4pm, said GrabHitch head Ngiam Xin Wei.
Asked whether the offer was in response to Uber's S$5 uberPOOL rides offer, she did not comment, but said it was part of Grab's efforts to "contribute to a car-lite society" and a chance for its users to experience and better understand GrabHitch.
"For instance, many do not know that GrabHitch drivers are regular, non-commercial drivers (that is, they do not earn an income from driving), looking to cover some of their costs on their way to work or home."
A beta version of GrabHitch was launched in Singapore last November. It enables riders heading in the same direction as a Grab driver to share a ride. GrabHitch lets riders pre-book a ride seven days in advance, right up to 15 minutes before pick-up.
Meanwhile, Uber also reported an "overwhelming response" to its uberPOOL promotion on Friday.
Asked whether Grab's counter-offer marked the start of a car-pooling war, an Uber spokeswoman said: "We are excited that so many riders have had the opportunity to experience this one-of-a-kind, reliable and truly on-demand car-pool service that does not require any pre-booking or scheduling ahead of time."
uberPOOL, which landed in Singapore on July 1, lets riders heading in the same direction to share a ride and split the cost of the trip. Uber drivers can become car-poolers without their having to be headed in the same direction as their rider or riders.
Amendment: The original article stated that Grab and Uber are offering GrabHitch and uberPOOL promotions on Fridays. The promotions were only valid for one Friday, July 22. The article has been revised to reflect that.