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New Grab scheme to help small businesses go online

Ride-hailing giant Grab yesterday launched a B2B (business-to-business) programme to help more small businesses in South-east Asia move online, digitalise and manage their business.

The Small Business Booster programme includes tools and initiatives that make digitalisation easier for small businesses and helps them raise their visibility. Grab said it also expects to roll out financial services for small businesses soon.

Under the new programme, a self-serve merchant platform, GrabMerchant, will be rolled out in phases from mid-June. It provides business owners a one-stop shop to optimise operations, view insights, purchase supplies at wholesale rates and create ads on its platform, Grab said in an online briefing.

The platform has also simplified the onboarding process for merchants. The process now requires at least three working days, but with GrabMerchant, food businesses will be able to build an online store, set up cashless payment options and be up and running on Grab in 24 hours.

Merchants do not need to pay to use the platform, said Grab.

The firm's co-founder Tan Hooi Ling said: "Covid-19 has accelerated change. We have seen dependency on online services grow exponentially almost overnight. This is spurring innovation in South-east Asia, but is also putting us at risk of a widening digital divide.

"They (small businesses) need to embrace technology and digitalise or risk falling further behind ... We will draw on our technology and reach to find new ways of doing business that can inclusively support everyone."

Grab's new programme also includes a feature to make it easier for businesses to be discovered by potential customers. Users will be able to view merchants near them through the "Nearby Merchants" widget on the Grab app, available from early in the third quarter. Businesses that sign up for this can choose to push promotions to customers nearby.

Analysts said these new features show more focus in expanding Grab's platform beyond its core ride-hailing business, perhaps to capture ad spend and build a more robust ecosystem in areas with increased traffic during Covid-19, such as food delivery.

Over 78,000 merchants came on board its platform between March and April, Grab said.

Grab's group managing director of operations, Mr Russell Cohen, said yesterday more than half the company's gross merchandise value comes from non-transport-related areas, which include the delivery of food and groceries. However, he did not elaborate on how the company will see this shift in the future, nor break down the segments that could drive greater profits.

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