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Grab launches region's first bike-sharing marketplace
IN a sign of further consolidation and hotter competition in Singapore's point-to-point transportation sector, Grab on Friday unveiled GrabCycle - a marketplace app that unites bike and e-scooter sharing services on one platform.
GrabCycle will support Grab's ambition of becoming a multi-modal consumer platform amid competition with its regional rivals Uber and Go-Jek, industry players told The Business Times. The app, said to be the first in South-east Asia, will be available before July.
GrabCycle users will be able to find and rent a bike or e-scooter from any of its partner brands. Partnerships have been formed with bike-sharing operators oBike, GBikes and Anywheel, and e-scooter sharing operator Popscoot.
Notably, ofo and Mobike are not on the list. Asked if GrabCycle had approached these two players, Grab would only say that the platform is open to all partners.
oBike, with 14,000 bikes, is the largest bike-sharing operator in Singapore; ofo has "over 10,000 bikes and Mobike has a fleet numbering "in the thousands". Popscoot has 100 e-scooters in Singapore, and Anywheel has 4,000 bikes. GBikes could not be reached.
Reuben Lai, head of GrabVentures, said GrabCycle is open to having more mobility brands on its "open marketplace". GrabVentures is Grab's innovation arm to test new mobility and payment concepts, and GrabCycle is its pilot project.
Mr Lai said: "The GrabCycle marketplace reflects our belief in working with the right partners to improve mobility in cities. Together, we hope to re-design public spaces for bike-sharing and other personal mobility options. We will study commuting patterns and use data to identify and build new cycling pathways and common parking spots for our users."
At the launch, Sentosa was unveiled as Grab's first GrabCycle venue partner, which means users of the four bike and e-scooter sharing services can park at GrabCycle's parking stations on the island.
For the project, Grab has also partnered local supply-chain solutions company YCH to ensure that GrabCycle bikes and scooters are properly parked.
Mr Lai said plans are afoot to roll out GrabCycle regionally. "Our focus is to test it to make sure we get it right in Singapore, and if consumers love it, then there's nothing stopping us from continuing to expand throughout South-east Asia."
No pricing details have been confirmed, but BT understands that GrabCycle will offer standardised fares across its partner brands, and users can opt for a subscription plan.
Lee Der-Horng, director of the NUS-LTA Transport Research Centre, views the launch of GrabCycle as more of a move to shape Grab into a marketplace for mobility solutions: "Grab's core business is private-hire cars. Cycling is not important to them and not really a complement to their core business, as private-hire cars can offer point-to-point transportation services. Grab is moving into this area for the sake of expanding its business varieties so that it can position itself as a multi-modal, urban-mobility solution provider."
Anywheel founder Htay Aung described GrabCycle as a "game-changer" for Singapore and South-east Asia's bike-sharing industry. "Grab, already as established as it is, can easily direct traffic from its Grab app to its new GrabCycle app at a very low cost. ... Partnering GrabCycle gives companies like ours more exposure to the local and South-east Asian markets."
GrabCycle comes at a time of change in point-to-point transportation. Uber will soon sell part of its South-east Asian business to Grab; ComfortDelGro has proposed to buy 51 per cent of Uber's private car rental subsidiary. And Grab recently put US$45 million in oBike.
Meanwhile, Uber said in response to Grab's move: "As a tech company, we are always exploring new ways for our Uber app to provide affordable and accessible ways for users to move around their cities. We are piloting bike-sharing via the app in the US and it is exciting to see how bikes fit into the vision of shared mobility on demand for the future."