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We Spoke To Grab Drivers & Here's Why They're Worried About Uber Leaving M'sia

  • Since the announcement of Uber’s absorption into Grab in Southeast Asia, many Malaysian drivers are anxious. 
  • Due to Grab’s hit-all of measures against fraudsters and bad drivers, many drivers feel that they are unfairly treated by Grab, leading to bans and high cancellation rates. 
  • They’re also concerned because Grab’s system seem to favour riders at the expense of the drivers. 

Last week, the technosphere was inundated with news about Uber’s marriage into Grab’s family in Southeast Asia. Two main voices rang out of the chatter—entrepreneurs who are proud that a local unicorn has managed to overthrow a Silicon Valley giant in the region, and consumers worrying that the exit of such a huge competitor will lead to a monopoly in the region, and increase prices.

Grab has been quick to make statements that the merger will not lead to price increases.

One voice that has been rather silent on the international sphere is the drivers’. While they are not employed by Grab or Uber directly, many of them stake their entire bread and butter on these ride-hailing giants.

We decided to reach out to them to get a sense of how they feel about the situation.

The people we spoke to are drivers for either Grab or Uber, and in some cases, both.

The answers, as expected, are mixed, but it is clear that many drivers feel anxious about the situation. For one thing, many of the loyal Uber drivers are unsure about how the shift will impact them.

Some of the drivers did have a positive opinion.

“It’s a blessing for drivers since there’s no more competition from both companies trying to offer the lowest fare. I’ve been a Grab driver for quite some time now and I have seen my income decreasing. I feel that there’s nothing to lose with this merger anyway. Life goes on keeps on. Kayuh (keep driving) until you’re not worthy to serve anymore.”
From a Grab driver

Others have more pressing concerns.

A few of them we reached out to told us that they will have to find a different profession, as Grab has banned them.

Currently, some of the drivers who responded feel that Grab’s system puts drivers at a disadvantage. One of the ways this manifests is in what they consider an unfair rate of banned drivers.

After some major blowback from security risks of ride-hailing, Grab began introducing stricter regulations to protect customers. At the same time, Grab was introducing measures to help curb fraud from the drivers.

As a result though, it seems like many drivers were accused of fraud even if this isn’t true. For example, if they just happen to be the very few Grab drivers within the area and they happen to pick up the same rider more than once, Grab flags that as a potentially dishonest trick to game Grab’s incentive system, and this could lead to a ban.

Often, drivers would share stories of no-show riders who insist that the drivers cancel the ride instead of the riders. This pushes the driver’s cancellation rates up, which could lead to the drivers’ accounts getting banned.

According to these drivers, Uber’s system was more reasonable to the drivers.

As said by one of the drivers (translated from Malay).

“As the days go by and more drivers get recruited, the higher the risk of longtime drivers getting banned, without reason but given ridiculous excuses from Grab. They’re getting cockier day by day.”

“Riders don’t understand the situation, such as traffic problems, and cancel without consideration to us. Then Grab will suspend drivers because of high cancellations rates. It’s unfair.”

Another driver who’s driven for both said that he was sick and tired of Grab’s system that is said to not “listen to drivers’ obstacles in reality”.

According to a newsletter sent out to Uber drivers, those who were previously banned by Grab’s system continue to be banned, though Grab has stated that they plan on reviewing banned accounts, perhaps following some protest by the drivers.

Uber’s riders were more “humane”, according to some of the drivers, who had driven for both.

As said by one of the respondents (and translated):

“Riders are better ‘behaved’ and humane. Uber’s systems, with the 5-minute countdown upon arriving at pickup points (driver compensations) and a two-way rating system is fairer and educates riders to appreciate a driver’s time. I’ve only begun to drive on Grab but I can immediately tell that there’s a difference between the riders for both.”
A former Uber driver who’s transitioned over to Grab

A few voices said something similar.

“I hope that all of the benefits on Uber’s system is implemented into Grab. There’s a reason why Uber’s drivers remain loyal with them. I hope that Grab listens to more drivers and riders to improve their system.”

One driver also outlined his thoughts on how Grab could move to catch more loyal drivers on their platform, while echoing the point about two-way ratings.

“If a rider is having a bad day, then the driver is at their mercy for ratings,” said the driver.

He also has other opinions.

“On many occasions, drivers need to wait for riders, especially those staying in condominiums and apartments. Sometimes, they take 20 minutes. But if we cancel, then we lose everything—the time to head there and the petrol.”

“So Grab should implement rider no-show fees. If riders don’t show up within 5 minutes, then RM5 should be charged to the rider, as compensation. Uber has this feature.”

The driver also hopes that Grab can implement small additional charges if drivers are caught in the jam, similar to how Uber does it.

In his opinion, Grab should follow Uber’s move of surge rates, especially to go to places like airports and city centres at peak hours, so that the drivers are better compensated.

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It should be noted that we think part of the reason respondents tended to lean towards Uber’s systems over Grab’s is because those who are happy with the system are generally less likely to air their grievances and didn’t respond to our call for opinions.

Nevertheless, it is important for Grab to take these drivers’ concerns to heart as they absorb one of their biggest competitors in the region.

Drivers too are concerned about the potential monopoly, and this seems to be because many of them genuinely prefer what seems to be Uber’s more considerate approach to handling drivers.

For what it is worth though, the absorption of Uber’s team into Grab’s high echelons might help bring these more humane measures into Grab’s system. After all, that’s the culture that they’ll be carrying in.

Update on 5/4/2018: In light of these concerns by both Grab drivers, and Uber drivers that will be absorbed into the new Grab system, Grab issued a response.

“Grab remains committed to make mobility safe, convenient and accessible for all its users. At the moment, there are no plans to make changes to the app,” said a Grab representative.

“The passenger-rating feature, which allows drivers to provide feedback on its customers is already available to our drivers. Last year, we also launched the Better 365 programme to focus on four key areas—better support, increased earnings, better tools and creating a stronger community among our drivers.”

Speaking about the liberal hand in banning that some drivers have complained about, Grab stated that, “We have always prioritised the importance of safety and we maintain a strict code of conduct for both passengers and drivers to uphold the quality of our service and safety for both parties.”

“Our passengers are also placed under the same scrutiny and we take driver feedback very seriously. If we find that a passenger violates or crosses the code of conduct we have in place, we are swift to take action and take the necessary steps to protect our drivers’ safety and well-being.”

“That being said, we also understand that the ride-hailing industry helps provide income for drivers and their families. As we are into the process of onboarding Uber drivers, previously banned drivers can appeal and we are open to reconsider. However, drivers involved with serious offences such as sexual harassment will not be entertained.”

Feature Image Credit: Grab

 

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