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Leadership Lessons from Grab (28 March 2018)
Anthony & Hooi Ling at Grab’s 5th-year-anniversary celebration last year. Picture: Grab

Leadership Lessons from Grab (28 March 2018)

By: Malati Siniah

‘Asia’s Answer to Uber’ was the title of the Financial Times article on Malaysian-born start-up Grab in 2014. This week the local ride sharing app once known as MyTaxi not only proved that it was beyond a mirror of its international counterpart but a force to be reckoned with having acquired Uber’s Southeast Asian operations. This deal, largest of its kind in Southeast Asia, will integrate Uber’s ridesharing and food delivery business in the region.

An award-winning idea formed by Anthony Tan and Tan Hooi Ling at the Harvard Business School’s 2011 Business Plan Contest, Grab has grown by leaps and bounds since it first launched in June 2012. The company which has a presence in 8 countries, continues to expand its service offerings to include mobile payment, financial services and now a food delivery business, through its latest acquisition of UberEats.

As we dug up past interviews by both Anthony who also sits as Grab’s CEO and his co-founder Hooi Ling, we saw two leaders who have a keen understanding of each others strength’s and were firmly grounded by their company’s values.

Below are some of the key quotes from those interviews…..

“Every time we didn’t agree on something we’d say, ‘okay let’s go back to the principles, go back to the values’, and that makes things converge.”

Anthony shared onstage at Wild Digital 2017, as reported by TechInAsia, on how he and Hooi Ling work out their differences.

“Without humility, you will stop acknowledging the need to learn; you will stop acknowledging the need to hire the best people, and the need to continuously disrupt yourself.”

– Staying humble Hooi Ling told CNBC, was not only a key component to her personality but also what she looks for in the leadership bench at Grab.

“I always tell my team – “iron sharpens iron”. We respect our competition and are proud that global giants are fighting tooth and nail with us to win hearts and minds of our customers. But we should not let them dictate our destination. If we do that, we will fail.”

– Anthony shared in an interview with Malaysian Tatler. Last year he took a spot on the magazine’s list of the 50 game changers shaping Malaysia’s future.

“If you’re too focused, you’ll stop innovating. But if you’re too innovative, you’ll lose your focus and won’t get anything done.”

Hooi Ling on the importance of striking the right balance between thinking outside the box and not losing sight of your priorities when growing a business. Via CNBC

 “Every time we hire someone at GrabTaxi, we spend a lot of time talking about what our values are, about mutual trust, about reputation. I tell employees, you must be a taxi driver for one day. You must talk to the driver, feel his pain. We all know how it is to be a passenger, but always look at the driver when you build a product. You must always build from their point of view,”

Tech portal, e27 reported that Anthony is a firm believer in the Japanese philosophy of ‘See yourself, do yourself, cure yourself’, a belief he continues to pass on to his employees.

“I remember having to go door to door to convince people to join us, be it fleet companies, driver-partners, or even the early team of Grabbers who had no idea where this start-up would lead them. It was pure grit, believing in this mission and not taking ‘No’ for an answer that kept the team going.”

Anthony penned in an open letter to Grab’s customers, marking the company’s 5th-anniversary last year.

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