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Driven to succeed

Released at: 08:26, 02/04/2015

Driven to succeed

In changing the taxi-taking habits of Vietnamese people, the Director of GrabTaxi Vietnam is turning his passion into reality.

by Minh Tuyet

Being involved in the technology business is the opposite of playing in a casino, according to the Director of GrabTaxi, Mr. Nguyen Tuan Anh. He used the analogy to explain that in business, unlike a casino, the more you do it the easier it becomes to understand where and how success may come. Before his success, though, he experienced some failure, but never took it to heart and just moved on.

"We can't predict exactly what the market will be," he said, in talking about investment opportunities. Having done his best, though, he never considers making mistakes to be the end of the world. Instead, he analyzes the reaction of customers and adopts a different strategy.

It's important to test the market and also to test business plans, he said, to reduce the consequences of any mistakes. Moreover, a mechanism for risk management is a must. Serious mistakes must be identified and addressed, he added, so they don't clog up the whole system, especially at a large company.

Anyone who simply expects the strategy they've selected will automatically be a major success may find that unexpected risks bring failure instead, he believes. This is how he approached the job at GrabTaxi, by testing the market first.

Thinking big, starting small

"We thought big but started small," he said of his strategy for GrabTaxi, adopting strategies that included promotion programs and setting targets for what these programs hoped to achieve.
Its promotion package of giving every passenger VND50,000 ($2.34) off their trip is a good example. Initially, many people used it and liked it, and feedback from customers was positive. Nevertheless, there were problems. Many passengers and even drivers, he explained, realized the loophole in the promotion program, and took short trips, sometimes costing only $1. "We had to accept the situation, which came about from a lack of human resources at the startup stage," he said. Now, though, GrabTaxi has enough staff and the technology needed to minimize any dishonest behavior in its promotion programs. It now offers VND30,000 ($1.40) off trips in its promotion program, which seems to work better and still provides passengers with something of substance. While small promotion packages were good in the startup stage, the aim is reaching and attracting millions of customers. Starting small was a smart way to test what GrabTaxi's promotion programs can and can't achieve.

He also started small when employing staff at the beginning, which he still considers to be one of the most difficult yet important tasks for any company. As a new startup, few people had heard of GrabTaxi and job advertisements were met with few applications. Not only were people concerned about working for a startup, the salary he was able to offer at that time could hardly be described as competitive. "Most of my Vietnamese employees don't have polished CV but they are like rough diamonds," he said, in that some polishing has made them shine. He could see potential where perhaps other employers could not, and many of those who joined the company in the early days remain and have the company's best interests at heart. Some did leave, though, but he holds no ill-will towards them and believes their time at GrabTaxi set them up with a bright future. "If I worried about people leaving I wouldn't be able to do anything," he said. "I take care of the development of my staff and now pay salaries equal to or higher than other companies."

Thinking big and starting small has worked for GrabTaxi, and Mr. Tuan Anh believes it's sound advice to any young Vietnamese looking to apply new technology in their business endeavors, as he did. "Young people are often very enthusiastic and no one should curb their great ambitions, but it's always best to start small," he said.

Technology fan

He readily admits to having a real passion for technology, finding fascination in how it can make life easier and better. Mobile phones have made communicating with family and friends quick and simple, and now they can use their phone to find the nearest GrabTaxi driver without having to call a taxi company and not know when the driver will turn up. As a fan of technology, he's pleased that it works to make life easier, and as a fan of computer games he also appreciates how it provides fun and relaxations. "Using technology at GrabTaxi has deepened my passion for technology and strengthened my belief that it improves lives when used in the right way," he said.

Besides helping drivers earn higher incomes by increasing the number of fares that come their way, GrabTaxi also has a number of other benefits. For customers, knowing they can find a taxi and reach their destinations quickly means they can spend more time with their family or at work. And linking the nearest driver with a passenger also means less time is wasted bringing the two together. "The fewer taxis there are travelling some distance to reach a passenger, the better the traffic will be and the less pollution created," he said.

When the job at GrabTaxi presented itself he scarcely hesitated in taking it up. "It took me quite a while to understand what GrabTaxi was and what it could be," he said, but it struck him as being a perfect match.

Before taking on the job at GrabTaxi he worked at other technology companies, including Yahoo. Many people, he said, consider working in a large company to present more opportunities in life. But he's a firm believer in small companies and even startups also providing the chance for people to prove themselves and get ahead.

Guaranteeing value

Mr. Tuan Anh doesn't have any particular ambition in mind for GrabTaxi, preferring it follow classic business methods to see what can be achieved. "Focusing only on fame, huge staff numbers or big money is the wrong way to go about running a business," he believes.

If GrabTaxi can guarantee good value for the customer, by providing a faster, safer and better service, more people will use it and pass on the good word to their friends. Then, more drivers will work for GrabTaxi, which means it has more taxis on the road. "It's like a circle," he explained.

"We might find fame and fortune, but such things are never stable," he said. "But if we concentrate on guaranteeing value, everything we have and do is stable."

Three people use GrabTaxi every second throughout ASEAN countries. After one year it attracted $340 million in investment. In Vietnam, GrabTaxi's strategies over the next five years are to focus on trip numbers as well as the caring for passengers and drivers. The company will offer free car washes to its drivers and provide scholarships to their children. It has already arranged cooperative funding deals with major partners such as Viettel, Citibank, VPBank and BHD.

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