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08 September 2019
TECHNOLOGY

Grab plans to invest $150 million in AI to build super app

Grab, in hot competition with local rival Gojek to become Southeast Asia’s do-it-all super app, outlined for the first time a blueprint for its use and deployment of artificial intelligence (AI).

BLOOMBERG/BRENT LEWIN


Grab Holdings plans to invest $150 million into AI research over the next year, accelerating its expanding business that now includes food delivery, digital payments and digital content, reported Bloomberg.

Tan Hooi Ling, the Co-founder of Grab, said that the Southeast Asian ride-hailing start-up will build on the $100 million it has previously invested in the technology and improve its fraud prevention and natural language processing (NLP) tech.

“We want to go from AI-powered to AI everywhere,” said Tan.

Tan sees successful technology companies building great platforms that are very localised to the problem they’re trying to solve and in Grab’s sphere, localised languages in Southeast Asia are very underserved.

The tech firm is working with Microsoft on delivering better NLP and making the region’s leader in ride-hailing, food delivery and digital payments even more tailored as well as accessible to users in the various markets.

Technology companies like Grab are preparing as blazing-fast fifth-generation networks spread, powering complex AI applications and catalysing the emergence of futuristic technologies like self-driven cars. But according to Tan, Grab is focused on its customers and their most immediate needs.

Grab, which is raising more than $4.5 billion in its latest funding round from companies such as SoftBank Group’s Vision Fund, is hiring thousands of people and setting up research centres from Beijing to Seattle.

At the centre of the company’s global effort is an ambition to create an all-in-one ‘super app’ akin to Tencent’s WeChat for China. The company’s GrabPay service already allows consumers to pick up the tab for rides and order food, and it’s expanding into lending and insurance.

In 2018, it debuted a financial technology platform and launched Grab Ventures to fund promising start-ups. The company is also said to be considering applying for a digital banking licence if Singapore allows it.


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