Grab is Southeast Asia’s top ride-hailing firm thanks to its acquisition of Uber’s local business last year. Its biggest competitor gone, the company is on a push to go beyond transport and become an everyday “super app” — and that strategy just embraced video streaming today.
That’s because Grab is integrating video-on-demand service HOOQ — a local equivalent to Netflix — into its core ride-hailing app. The company, which is valued at $11 billion and raising a $5 billion round, already offers a range of services, including food delivery, payments, grocery delivery, travel deals and more. But, beyond utility, the focus is now shifting to entertainment, a category where Grab’s app currently sports only basic games.
Grab’s focus on these additional non-transportation services is designed to retain the attention of users and keep them engaged with its app even when they don’t need a ride. In that spirit, Grab announced a partnership platform last summer that’s aimed at helping companies in adjacent industries where it sees a fit to be integrated into its app. The benefit is potential access to Grab’s 130 million registered users, which, aside from Western services like Facebook and Google, represents one of the largest digital platforms in Southeast Asia, where Grab is present in eight countries.
The rollout of HOOQ began earlier this month with Singapore and Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy and the world’s fourth most populous country, the focus initially.
“Singapore and Indonesia will be the first launch markets for this partnership, with a ‘Video’ tile in the Grab app going live by the end of the first quarter. Philippines and Thailand will follow. Grab users will be offered a three-month access [pass] to HOOQ’s wide range of Hollywood and Asian titles, which can be played directly from the Grab app,” Grab said in a statement.
The companies didn’t disclose financial details, but HOOQ CEO Peter Bithos suggested Grab would receive a cut of revenue generated by subscription sign-ups generated by its app.
Leaning on Grab’s presence is certainly the appeal for HOOQ, which was started in 2015 by Singapore telco Singtel, Sony Pictures and Warner Brothers. Initially, a play to out-localize Netflix in Southeast Asia, HOOQ has recast its position somewhat in recent times — that’s included a free, advertising-supported tier launched last year and content deals with other on-demand services, including Hotstar in India.
Bithos told TechCrunch that he believes Grab can support its growth and pivot from a cheaper but all-subscriber Netflix challenger to a freemium service that requires scale.
“Our strategy is around finding digital partners where we are complementary,” he explained in an interview. “We are building our tech and partnerships so that customers can easily bump into us without having to download an app or sign up to a different service.”
The HOOQ presence in Grab will include its full content library, Bithos confirmed.
“The deal is part of a much broader strategy for us,” he added. “We’re inverting the customer experience and putting HOOQ into other people’s products.”
Video in ride-hailing apps may sound unique, but Go-Jek, Grab’s arch-rival headquartered in Indonesia, last year waded into video content, both through partnerships and its own productions. Even Uber has flirted with “in-ride content” to engage users, but it hasn’t delved into video yet.
With Go-Jek making the leap, it figures that Grab has followed with its own solution. Bithos said he is confident that the HOOQ-Grab tie-in is superior.
“Go-Jek hasn’t been able to get to anything like the scale or reach that we’ve got,” he said.
He suggested that the partnership allows Grab to focus on what it does best — rides — rather than other areas; that’s a concern that some sections of Grab’s user base have raised with its foray into other services.
“They don’t have to build video tech or focus on it,” he explained.