Rideshare in Singapore: Beyond the Uber-Grab Experiment

by Alexandra Pacurar

Singapore is known for its street food, tropical climate,  top-notch transportation system, and young commuters eager to jump on board the latest mobility trends. In fact, in a recent survey, passengers said they were more satisfied with the quality of public transportation in 2018 compared to past years. However, it is demand from these very commuters that is fueling the adoption of rideshare in Singapore.

The number of active users has grown from 8 million in 2015 to 40 million in 2019, according to a recent study by Google, Temasek, and Bain & Company.  And, perhaps to a greater extent than in other major urban destinations, rideshare is playing a major role in solving the last mile problem, helping people to get to and from public transport stations.

Asia-Pacific, the largest ridesharing market in the world, accounts for more than 70 percent of all rides worldwide, according to ABI Research, and is becoming even more competitive. The same report predicts that the size of the ridesharing sector in Southeast Asia will grow to $20 billion in 2025, a significant jump compared to $7.5 billion in 2018 and $2.5 billion in 2015. 

Money has already started pouring into the rideshare segment in Southeast Asia and more are expected to follow. Ridehailing and e-commerce startups have taken the bulk of financing in Southeast Asia’s Internet economy—nearly 70 percent from 2016 to the first half of 2019, according to the joint study. Total funding for ridesharing firms reached US$14 billion or S$19.4 billion, with the two leading players—Grab and Gojek—staging mega financing rounds to build up food delivery and even financial services. Grab’s partnership with MasterCard is illustrative of the goal. As local riders can attest, these companies are quickly moving from just providing ridesharing services to becoming a critical part of the new mobile lifestyle.

In Singapore, Grab is the rideshare market leader. After the Uber acquisition in 2018, it's market share exceeded 80 percent, according to the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore. The CCCS fined both Grab and Uber in September 2018 for harming competition in the market following the post-merger price increase.  Uber sold its Southeast Asia operations to Grab in March of 2018 but retained a 27.5% stake with Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi joining the firm’s board, escaping regulatory concerns but retaining a firm foothold in the Southeast Asian market.

While Grab has been busy merging its ridesharing and food delivery businesses with that of Uber, the rest of the rideshare companies have been focused on growing their market share in Singapore. And their efforts seem to be successful. A year after CCCS’ infringement decision on the high-profile rideshare deal, it seems that fare estimates for riders have decreased by 11 percent, while 55 percent of drivers reported increased earnings, according to research by the Centre for Governance, Institutions, and Organisations at the National University of Singapore Business School. 

Other viable rideshare alternatives in Singapore are Ryde and TADA. The latter, a product of the MVL Foundation, claims it is the first rideshare app in the world to operate on a blockchain platform. So far, it has launched in Singapore, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Ryde has recently announced its partnership with Trans-Cab, the second-largest taxi operator in Singapore after ComfortDelGro. Riders using Ryde will be able to book Trans-Cab taxis through the app and taxi drivers will be able to take jobs through Ryde’s carpool platform.

FILO, Jugnoo, and Urge are rideshare apps that have tried to make it in Singapore, but it seems the odds were not in their favor. Urge advertised not having any peak-time price surges and paying drivers a monthly salary instead of commissions. Like many of its competitors, it included courier and food delivery services in its business plan. However, no recent updates are available from the company on its activity. 

Jugnoo is another ride-share app that had a brief run in Singapore. After only a few months in which it struggled to find drivers, it decided to exit the market and lend its knowledge to local ride-hailing company Kardi. FastGo is another new entry in Singapore’s rideshare market and prides itself with not having peak period surcharges, but only time will tell if it will manage to expand. Some of its predecessors complained about the difficulty of contracting drivers in the market, as most prefer to work for the more established players. Also, the higher security and safety standards, which impose tougher driver screenings, make it even more challenging to hire.