Grab launches new programme for small businesses to grow online in the 'new normal'

Grab has launched a small business booster programme aimed at aiding small businesses in Southeast Asia adapt to the COVID-19 new normal. This will include tools and initiatives for offline businesses to easily make the shift online, and help those already on the Grab platform to expand their visibility and adapt their operations to an increasingly digital-reliant world.

According to Grab, the programme extends the company’s long-term commitment to digitalise traditional and small businesses and ensure they are included in the growing digital economy. Prolonged social distancing measures and changes in consumer behaviours have led to an elevated demand for digital services that is expected to be permanent even as movement restrictions ease, and that consumers are likely to remain cautious about venturing out, and many companies are envisioning more of their workforce working from home permanently. Yet only 34% of small businesses in Southeast Asia have an online presence, a study by the Economic Research Institute revealed.

As such, the Small Business Booster Programme aims to facilitate the digitalisation of small businesses - either by giving them a digital shopfront on the Grab platform or through e-payments integration. Amongst small businesses that are already on the Grab platform, an internal survey found that 76% would like more support in increasing their online visibility, and 56% want tools to help them innovate and provide insights to grow their business.

The key components of the programme include:

1. GrabMerchant: A self-serve merchant platform for business owners to help grow their online customer base, optimise their operations, while keeping costs in check. These include:

  • Self-onboarding: Food businesses can build an online store, set up cashless payment options, and be up and running on Grab in 24 hours.
  • Insights: The Insights tool gives merchants a view into their sales, their operations, their customers’ purchasing habits, and the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns. It allows them to spot and respond quickly to new opportunities such as creating bundled meals based on what customers are ordering, and equips them to address operational inefficiencies.
  • Ads: An ads creation tool that empowers merchant-partners to build their own food banner and food search ads, and track the ad performance in real-time.
  • Supplies: Grab merchant-partners can purchase supplies and ingredients at wholesale rates, and enjoy the convenience of next-day delivery. GrabMerchant will be available to merchant-partners as an app and a web portal. The app will roll out progressively from June 2020, followed by the web portal from July 2020 in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

2. US$3.5 million in free ads for Southeast Asia small businesses: The “Homegrown Heroes” initiative will see Grab creating personalised ads for approximately 6,000 local businesses in 28 cities across eight countries, and feature them on the most prominent spaces within the app for a five-week period starting in July. Grab will cover the cost and resources required to produce these marketing materials. Merchants who previously purchased banner ads on the GrabFood homepage saw a 300% return on advertising spend, the company claims.

3. Offline to Online (O2O) Merchant Support Programme: Grab is enabling offline businesses to go online via partnerships with eCommerce solution providers that allow for easy set-up of online stores with GrabPay integration. This will first roll out in Singapore followed by Malaysia and the Philippines in the coming weeks.

This builds on an earlier programme by Grab which empowers social selling for small businesses. During COVID-19, many merchants turned to social media and instant messaging platforms to sell their products, but lacked an easy way to receive payments. Grab’s Remote GrabPay Link solution aims to give merchants a URL that they can send to customers to make payment, with the merchants receiving GrabPay credits instantly. Within the first few weeks of launch in Singapore and Malaysia, Grab claims to have seen 2,500 merchant-partners using this feature.

4. Merchant Discovery: The feature aims to increase discoverability for businesses and drive more foot traffic to their physical stores when movement restrictions ease. From early Q3 2020, Grab users will be able to view merchants near them through the Nearby Merchants widget on the Grab app. Businesses who sign up for Merchant Discovery can also choose to push promotions to customers who are nearby to draw them to their stores and encourage spending. Grab will roll out additional customer loyalty plans for merchant-partners in Q3 2020, to help small businesses increase sales and improve customer retention.

Hooi Ling Tan, co-founder, Grab said small businesses make up the backbone of Southeast Asia’s economy, but the vast majority of these businesses are offline. These businesses will need to embrace technology and digitalise or risk falling further behind. Through Grab’s Small Business Booster Programme, the company looks to help small businesses navigate this new normal, and draws on its technology and reach to find new ways of doing business that can inclusively support everyone.

“COVID-19 has accelerated change. We have seen dependency on online services grow exponentially almost overnight. This is spurring innovation in Southeast Asia, but is also putting us at risk of widening the digital divide,” she added.

Connecting farmer and rural entrepreneurs

In addition to the launch of the programme, Grab has partnered with governments across Southeast Asia to connect farmers and other rural entrepreneurs to the digital economy. To ensure traditional ecosystems are not left behind, Grab has recently been involved in bringing wet market and Ramadan Bazaar sellers on to the Grab platform in Indonesia and Malaysia. The company will be expanding on this focus, working with governments in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand to connect rural entrepreneurs to the digital economy. These partnerships aim to expand economic opportunities for farmers and agricultural producers across the region by enabling them to earn directly from sales off the Grab platform, at the same time ease concerns around food security. 

In Indonesia, Grab partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture and Pasar Mitra Tani - a state-owned grocery store that sources produce directly from farmers. Customers will now be able to order these goods through the GrabAssistant service and have them delivered to their homes. This aims to shorten the distribution chain and help farmers earn more. Grab is also working with fishermen in Ambon to market and sell their goods to customers in Jakarta through GrabMart. In Malaysia, Grab is currently piloting an initiative with the Ministry of Rural Development (KPLB) via eLokal's DesaMall programme, to help 5,000 rural entrepreneurs digitalise their business, sell their goods and earn income opportunities through GrabMart and GrabFood.

In Philippines, Grab is partnering with the Department of Agriculture for the ‘Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita’ Program whereby customers across Metro Manila can purchase fresh produce and meats from the Department of Agriculture’s eKadiwa website and have them delivered through GrabExpress. Meanwhile in Thailand, Grab is working with the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives to help Thai farmers from three provinces market their surplus of fruits such as mango, lychee, mangosteen, banana through ‘Farmer’s Market’ on GrabMart.

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