GrabTaxi, the SoftBank-backed taxi-on-demand service in Southeast Asia, is preparing to introduce cashless payments to take it beyond cash-only fares and put it on par with Uber’s frictionless payment system.
TechCrunch understands that cashless payments via credit card will become an option for GrabTaxi customers across its six countries in Southeast Asia within the next couple of months, but passengers will still be able to pay for their rides using cash if they prefer.
A GrabTaxi spokesperson confirmed what we’ve heard, telling TechCrunch in a statement: “GrabTaxi is in the midst of developing a cashless payment option, which will gradually be rolled out for beta testing in March in Singapore.”
GrabTaxi, which covers 17 cities in the region, has already tested the water via an integration with DBS PayLah in Singapore. The upcoming beta test is not related to that rollout, however.
GrabTaxi initially entered the Southeast Asian market with a service that allowed customers to book regular taxi cabs and pay using cash, but over the past year it has expanded to compete directly with Uber. GrabTaxi introduced GrabCar, an Uber Black-style limo service, in May of last year, and cashless payments will be another leveler against its chief competitor.
Last year was a busy one for the company, which was initially founded in Malaysia. It raised over $340 million in funding from investors in 2014, including a $250 million injection from SoftBank. The Japanese telecom company has quickly become Uber’s chief rival in Asia courtesy of a series of investments which also include putting money into Ola in India, and Kuaidi Dache in China.
While GrabTaxi has been synonymous with cash, to this point, Uber requires all customers to own a credit card which must be added to their account on sign-up. The company previously said it is open to alternative payment options in emerging markets, where credit card penetration is low, but is yet to act on that. The U.S. company did add an alternative payment system in India — in the form of Alibaba-backed Paytm’s wallet — but that was forced by regulations.
Hailo and Rocket Internet’s Easy Taxi also provide competition in Southeast Asia, however the former is limited to Singapore and Japan for now, while the latter appears to be struggling after pulling out of four markets in the region.