Grab, Uber’s chief rival across Southeast Asia, appears to be getting into bike-sharing after plans for a joint service with oBike surfaced in Singapore.
Last week, an eagle-eyed resident in Singapore shared photos of Grab Cycle bikes — which show an oBike logo, too — being loaded into a van. Grab declined to comment when we asked about an integration, but it wouldn’t be a huge surprise since it is an investor in oBike, as we reported back last year, and you’d expect there to be a strategic element to that relationship.
The companies did, however, announce today that oBike will integrate GrabPay, Grab’s mobile payment service, into its app. There was also a heavy hint at other imminent collaborations.
“The two tech companies are also working closely together with more joint initiatives in the pipeline to improve the on-demand transport infrastructure in Singapore. Details of these initiatives will be revealed in the coming weeks,” oBike said in a statement.
Grab, in a statement released later, added its own not-quite-confirmation of the impending bike-sharing partnership:
We’re extending the use of GrabPay beyond transport and now have over 1,000 merchants in Singapore who accept GrabPay for other services like F&B or retail. We’ll keep providing more places where our customers can use GrabPay, and are open to all partnerships.
We always explore new mobility options and are today the only player with a real multiple transport service proposition – one that caters to consumers with different travelling preferences and price points. While launching a new service is still preliminary, we look forward to exploring collaborations with all transport providers in the industry.
It looks like the integration will happen first in Singapore, based on what we’ve seen, but oBike is present in other markets in Southeast Asia so there’s potential for a wider rollout.
oBike has raised over $50 million from investors and it claims 10 million users. Impressive though those numbers are, they pale in comparison when compared with Chinese unicorns Ofo and Mobike, which have raised close to $2 billion collectively and expanded to 200 cities worldwide each.
Grab’s tie-in with oBike follows a trend of ride-hailing companies embracing bikes, and it is interesting on a few levels.
For one, oBike competes with Ofo and Mobike, while Ofo itself is backed by Didi Chuxing… which is an investor in Grab, too. The Didi-Ofo relationship hasn’t worked out too well, with Didi last week launching a service aimed at containing the threat that Ofo poses to its ride-hailing service, but Grab will hope for better.
Secondly, there’s an ICO angle. oBike is pushing ahead with a planned token sale through an alliance with controversial crypto project Tron.
Tron saw its TRX digital currency surge over 500 percent in a week to reach a total market cap of $16 billion earlier this month, becoming a top 10 cryptocurrency in the process, despite little to no evidence of an actual product. The value of TRX — which is purportedly a platform for the entertainment industry — slide from around $0.24 to $0.072 as of today after it emerged that Tron had plagiarized ICO project FileCoin and Ethereum to develop its whitepaper and tech.
It’s unclear whether Grab, and other oBike investors, are supportive of the ICO, which TechCrunch understands is scheduled to take place sometime in Q1 2017.
Uber doesn’t currently offer bike-sharing but its head of Asia told TechCrunch last year that it is looking into options in the space.
Note: Article updated to correct the fact that Grab and oBike did not announce a bike-sharing integration. The author may have been a little too keen on that.
The article was updated a second time to include the statement from Grab.