Ask any hardworking person from Makati where to get good, reasonably-priced, street-level lunch fare in the CBD, and three words will immediately escape from their lips: Sisig sa Rada.
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Housed by one of the many metallic kiosks that line up Makati’s busy back alleys and side streets (which have earned the affectionate nickname “jollijeeps” over the years), the Legaspi Village favorite is never without a crowd around noon. Queues actually start as early as 11 A.M., with many patrons patiently waiting to be served, some actively defying lunch break hours in pursuit of their steaming, toyo-laced treasure.
While the kiosk and its proprietor, Alicia Laqi, have been success stories for years, the eatery was still a simple operation limited by location. That was until Grab Food came into the picture. Since joining the platform and allowing her food to be easily accessible to the app’s users, her earnings skyrocketed. She made PHP 2 million in the span of six months according to the app’s Philippine office. “Jollijeeps are very traditional, but because of Grab’s technology, we can reach so many people, not just in Makati, but everywhere,” Laqi says. “Now, I have new sets of regular customers that I have never seen. Because my business is better now, I can take care of my family especially now that I have my grandchildren.”
Sisig sa Rada’s digital boom is an example of what Grab wants to do for micro-entrepreneurs in the region, a plan that sees the digitization of around 5 million in Southeast Asia by 2025. Called Grab for Good, this includes QR payment systems, and micro-financing, and is set to work with more SMEs like jollijeeps and home-based businesses.
On top of that, says Grab group vice-president for marketing Cheryl Goh, are numerous educational programs for their driver and delivery partners, revolving around digital literacy and inclusion. “We are offering a digital literacy course through Microsoft where our driver-partners and their families can learn about how to use the Internet better, raise productivity tools, use excel, and manage their finances better,” she says.
Anthony Tan, Grab’s chief executive and co-founder, talked more in length about this plan in a regional roll-out held in Jakarta late last year.
“Over the past seven years, Grab has grown from a small, scrappy startup offering taxis-on-demand, into a company operating in eight countries and 339 cities, and employing thousands in our offices,” he says. “Our moonshot is to create life-transforming opportunities for all those on our platform and to make it easier for Southeast Asians to be a part of the digital economy.”
He says that they want to make sure the rising tide of the digital economy lifts all boats, not just some, and ensure that digital skills and tech know-how do not exclude those coming from more challenged educational backgrounds nor the differently-abled.
While profits and margins, price surges and regulation continue to be a hotly-debated topic in the Philippines, the effect that Grab has on Southeast Asian purses is undeniable. The region is poised to become the fourth-largest economy in the world by 2030 according to the Singaporean publication, The Independent. Its digital economy is growing so fast it will triple in size, around USD 240 billion over the next seven years, so says ASEAN, Launched.
The company lays down more numbers in their Social Impact Report, which covers the last two years.
According to the report, Grab contributes about USD 5.8 billion to the Southeast Asian economy in a year. Over nine million micro-entrepreneurs—about one in 70 people—in the region have earned from the Grab platforms. These include their driver-partners, delivery-partners, agents, and merchants. They have also helped 1.7 million entrepreneurs open their first bank account since 2012, and 21 percent of their driver-partners did not work prior to joining Grab.
Locally, Grab has run an annual financial literacy and entrepreneurship program called Misiskolar since 2016. Open to the wives of driver-partners, these range of workshops include everything from no-bake cake-making to direct selling. The goal, Grab says, is to impart skills that can enable them to add to their husband’s income from the comfort of their homes. So far, over 1,100 spouses have benefited from this program.
A taste of the future
The attendees of the regional roll-out got a better understanding of the possibilities during a whole-day program that saw them go from point to point in the Indonesian capital’s busy streets. In the morning, they met a couple of startups that benefited from the app’s accelerator program, Grab Venture Velocity. By noon, they got to try GrabBajay, a three-wheel transportation option not unlike our own trisikads, to tour the historic area of Kota Tua.
They then visited the 10th Grab Kitchen, a central pickup place which allows food options even wider reach. (The first one in the Philippines will be at Glorietta in Ayala Center Makati.) Finally, the group visited Bebek Kephalang Babase, a restaurant that specializes in black duck, which has since scaled through the app. Meanwhile, Kudo, a tech platform that supports traditional retailers called warungs (to us, sari-sari stores) was introduced to the attendees the next day. In Indonesia, Kudo has empowered and serviced around 2.6 million agents over 500 towns and cities.
When exactly can we see all of these working in harmony in the streets of Manila? Goh says that the roll-out of these programs—including those that help differently-abled become driver or delivery partners—will depend on regulation and the openness of each market. While they are “inclusive where possible, where allowable,” she says that the goal and intention remain the same.As Tan emphasized in his opening speech, they believe that “technology, for all its deficiencies, can be an abiding force for good.”