Grab enters digital maps business, targets app builders in Southeast Asian cities

Grab on June 8 announced plans to enter the digital maps business, offering other businesses access to its GrabMaps mapping and location technology.

The service is being positioned as a competitor to other enterprise mapping solutions like Google Maps Platform and Bing Maps for Enterprise, and claims to do a better job of offering “hyperlocal” routes that make use of back alleys and narrow side streets common in Southeast Asian cities.

Grab aims to capture a slice of the annual $1 billion (1.37 billion Singapore dollars) market opportunity for mapping services in Southeast Asia.

The technology was first developed to power Grab’s ride-hailing and delivery platform, and is currently used for this purpose in seven of the eight countries in which Grab operates — Singapore, Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Indonesia is the exception.

The technology enables Grab to allocate drivers or deliverers to customers, calculate estimated trip times and plan and optimize routes.

Grab said its GrabMaps system currently handles more than 800 billion requests a month across all its services.

Its services will be fully powered by GrabMaps by the third quarter of this year.

Grab co-founder Tan Hooi Ling said: “The third-party mapping services that we relied on did not have these small lorongs [alleyways] that Southeast Asia so commonly relies on, or they didn’t have the right pick-up or drop-off points in the big malls in Southeast Asia. These were capabilities that everybody relied on day to day and got used to.”