RIDE-hailing unicorn Grab has made a strategic investment into logistics provider Ninja Van for an undisclosed amount, while striking up a partnership that will allow Grab to expand its parcel delivery service from point-to-point delivery within cities to inter-city delivery.
As e-commerce and social commerce become increasingly ubiquitous in South-east Asia, Grab aims to enable "millions of e-commerce micro-entrepreneurs" to scale their businesses across the region via GrabExpress, the firm's on-demand parcel and courier delivery service, said Adelene Foo, head of GrabExpress.
While Grab currently does point-to-point deliveries via its pool of riders, Ninja Van's operations include warehouses and sorting hubs across South-east Asia and is able to manage deliveries over a larger inter-city network.
Grab will integrate Ninja Van's services into its mobile app from the second quarter of 2019, and the services will be rolled out in phases across the region.
GrabExpress is currently available in 150 cities in countries including Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.
Lai Chang Wen, CEO and co-founder of Ninja Van, told BT: "While a significant part of Ninja Van's customer base comprises larger e-commerce businesses and platforms, this regional partnership will allow Ninja Van to access Grab's large user base, especially small and medium-sized sellers and social selling communities."
Ninja Van will also work towards adopting GrabPay across its platform, and both sides will collaborate to roll out lending and insurance products offered by Grab Financial to its merchants and delivery partners.
Foo Tiang Lim, a partner at seed-stage venture firm SeedPlus, noted that it is interesting how Grab has, in a way, "bought" a customer for its GrabPay product.
"The success of GrabPay is dependent on usage. The classic problem of a payments product is if no one accepts a payment method, users can't find ways to use it. Vice versa, no merchants will be incentivised to adopt a payment method if no customer uses it. So the way to solve the "chicken and egg" problem is to create use cases for the payment product, to encourage liquidity between payer and payee," he said.
Grab has made a number of strategic investments, including picking up a stake in grocery-delivery startup HappyFresh and integrating its service on its app in certain markets.