How brand purpose guided Grab though the pandemic


That brand purpose needs to be more than just words has become increasingly clear during the pandemic, as Singapore’s Grab has found across its interactions with consumers.

“People actually almost demand to know what we are doing,” Grab’s head of marketing, Cheryl Goh, told the recent All That Matters conference.

“They want to know what we’re doing for our drivers and delivery partners during this time, what we are doing for small businesses and, as a consumer, how we are keeping them safe.”

It has helped greatly that the eight-year old business, which started out as a ride-hailing app, has purpose baked in. “Our business is our purpose and our purpose is our business,” said Goh. “I didn’t have to reverse engineer anything; it is a very big part of why we exist.”

Tough times, according to Goh, can reveal whether companies really have purpose at the heart of the business, or are simply paying lip service. “If it is truly a part of your business, purpose guides your decisions. It helps you make trade-offs and prioritise.”

For instance, when Grab’s transport business came to a halt due to COVID-19 movement restrictions, the company knew it needed to take care of its community.

“We were able to retrain and pivot hundreds and thousands of drivers to do food delivery and logistics,” she said, adding that the company had to accelerate some of its businesses to do so. “[For] jobs like non-emergency ambulance services, we worked with local governments to use our drivers to continue providing them with income opportunities.”

Purpose also helped Grab make difficult decisions. “We had to cut commissions,” said Goh. “We had to defer payments. We had to not collect (car) rental payments. All of that kept our community afloat, and we were able to make these decisions because we were guided by our purpose.”

This article first appeared in

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