Not just Uber, now Grab is also hiring government insiders to grow its business

Southeast Asia’s Grab is taking a leaf out of the Uber playbook and bringing in a prominent insider to get ahead in its most important market.

Uber popularized the approach of nabbing execs like ex-Obama advisor David Plouffe and various others, and that’s the thesis behind ride-sharing firm Grab’s latest hire: the former chief of Indonesia’s National Police.

Badrodin Haiti, who spent a total of 35 years in the force, has joined Grab to take up the role of President Commissioner in Indonesia. That’ll see him manage the firm’s corporate governance in its largest market.

Five-year-old Grab, which is valued at $3 billion following a $750 million round last year, is pushing Uber hard in Southeast Asia, where it claims to have 580,000 drivers and over 30 million app downloads across six countries. Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy and the world’s fourth most populous country with 250 million inhabitants, is a key battleground where both companies, and $1.3 billion-valued local startup GoJek, are duking it out.

Aside from a rivalry than encompasses more than just taxis — the three firms specialize in motorbikes, services like shopping, and offer digital payment apps — regulatory hurdles are an important part of the challenge there.

The Indonesian government laid out regulations for ride-hailing services last year, which place restrictions on the types of cars in service and a ban on so-called independent drivers, but motorbike taxis remain unregulated. Grab evidently feels there’s plenty to gain from bringing an insider onto its team as it looks to expand its focus to more of the country.

It said Haiti will “oversee and ensure Grab Indonesia’s corporate governance and long-term sustainability in a supervisory role over Grab’s board of directors.”

Haitu, who has experience running the police in four Indonesian provinces and had stints as chief and deputy chief of the national force, believes Grab’s “values closely match” his own.

“I am delighted to join Grab Indonesia, a mission-oriented organization with a track record of improving lives in Indonesia and solving local problems,” he said in a statement. “I will ensure that Grab continues to be a shining example of corporate accountability and citizenship.”

“Mr. Haiti will play a guiding role to ensure Grab contributes constructively to the implementation of new transport regulations and safety guidelines,” added Grab Indonesia MD Ridzki Kramadibrata.