Tan Hooi Ling exudes a restless yet intensely focused energy.
One would not guess that the charismatic 38 year old co-founder of south-east Asian superapp Grab is a self-professed camera-shy introvert. In her 10 years building Grab, Tan, who goes by “Ling”, has worked in many roles in the company. She has described herself as the company “plumber”.
Grab began life as “MyTeksi” in 2012 when Tan started the venture with her Harvard Business School classmate Anthony Tan (no relation) – now Grab’s chief executive – with $25,000 they won at a business idea pitch contest. Their aim was to enable safe and reliable taxi rides for commuters in Malaysia.
A decade later, Grab’s services have expanded from ride hailing to deliveries to financial services and enterprise services. The company is making forays into retail with the acquisition of Malaysian supermarket chain Jaya Grocer. Bringing together initially disparate but ultimately complementary business lines onto its platform, Grab is positioning to be south-east Asia’s superapp for everyday needs.
In December, 2021, Grab listed on the NASDAQ Stock Market via a $40bn merger with special-purpose acquisition company Altimeter Growth Corp. Today, Grab is present in over 480 cities and towns across the region, and the company’s key backers and board members read like the “Who’s Who” of investors. They include Softbank, Uber and Toyota.