Rule #1 of working from home? Staying home. Ride-hailing, therefore, hit quite the speed bump.
When it comes to ride-hailing or food delivery, nobody has the regional scale of Singapore-headquartered Grab, which grossed 50 million downloads last year according to Apptopia. It’s present in eight countries in Southeast Asia.
Top 5 takeaways from Covid-time
App sessions show Grab started to lose traction in Vietnam first, as the country imported its early Covid-19 cases directly from Wuhan, China. Grab also suffered in Malaysia, its country of birth, which implemented a movement control order (MCO) which impacted taxis and traffic.
Grab’s food business, however, was boosted in countries where it could operate. A notable market for analysis is Thailand, where Grab is involved in a four-way battle with delivery service FoodPanda, LINE Man—the on-demand service from chat app LINE—and newer entrant GET from Gojek, which is competitive but lacks the traction to feature in the data.
On food, competition is toughest in Thailand, but growth there is as high as anywhere else in Southeast Asia, as we reported previously. A jump in activity for food-only services FoodPanda and LINE Man shows Grab’s transport business was hit hard. Assuming that Grab saw the same rise in food deliveries as its rivals—which is logical since it’s Thailand’s largest food delivery service—a big drop in ride-hailing usage caused its app session activity to drop rather than rise.
Indonesia, meanwhile, is the key battleground, and Gojek’s presence there has attracted a recent investment from PayPal and Facebook. Both Gojek and Grab followed similar lines of descent during the lockdown. Unlike in Thailand, food delivery orders did not rebound to make up for a shortfall in rides.
Wings cut, travel crashes
Travel and hospitality, as we know, are the worst-hit sectors this year. This is reflected in the fall in activity for prominent travel apps Agoda, Airbnb, Booking.com and AirAsia across the region—but there is cause for optimism.
The beginning of a y-shaped curve in Vietnam and Thailand are reflective of how the two countries reopened their economies before their neighbours.
Tourism is essential to both. Travel and tourism is estimated to account for 12% of Thailand’s GDP as of 2018, according to IHS Markit. The World Bank predicts Thailand’s GDP will fall by 5% this year—the highest drop in Southeast Asia. In Vietnam, the government is forecasting its tourism industry will miss out on $5.9 billion to $7.7 billion in spending from the outbreak.
That said, Vietnam did not record a single Covid-19 death and it was first in the region to ease lockdown measures from late April. Thailand, meanwhile, began to lift restrictions and open businesses from 17 May.
Stringent restrictions on movement and limited business hours hit hardest in the Philippines, which implement one of the world’s longest lockdowns. Capital city Manila came under an “enhanced community lockdown” that meant one person per household was given a quarantine pass to shop. It began to lift restrictions on 1 June, but it’s far from fully reopening the economy.