One of Southeast Asia’s most well-known female entrepreneurs is to step down from her operational roles at Grab, the ride-hailing giant she helped found more than a decade ago.
Tan Hooi Ling, a former chief operating officer who currently leads the firm’s technology and corporate strategy teams, will move to an advisory role by the end of the year, the company said Thursday. She will also give up her seat on the board.
Her exit leaves Grab’s Chief Executive Officer Anthony Tan the tough task of reversing years of losses amid increasingly fierce competition in the ride-hailing and food delivery markets, all without the help of the woman who helped him co-found the company in 2012.
“Grab has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. The impact we create is a reflection of who we are as a team, and I am humbled to have been able to walk alongside Anthony and the many amazing Grabbers who share the same values and work ethic to build something that improves lives in Southeast Asia,” a statement from the company quoted Tan Hooi Ling as saying.
After being founded as a ride-hailing company by the two Tans – who are both from Malaysia but are unrelated – Grab quickly soared to become Southeast Asia’s most valuable private company. It acquired Uber’s Southeast Asia business in 2018, and has since expanded into a variety of other services, including food delivery, digital payments and even financial services.
But Grab has faced intensifying competition from Southeast Asia rivals, including Singapore’s Sea Ltd, Indonesia’s GoTo Group, and Berlin-based Delivery Hero’s Foodpanda.
Grab, which unlike some of its competitors avoided mass layoffs during the coronavirus pandemic, posted an annual loss of $1.74 billion in 2022. That was a 51% improvement on the year before, according to its annual report.
In 2021, the company merged with a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, backed by Altimeter Capital in a deal that would pave the way for a New York listing and value Grab at nearly $40 billion.
Before that, Grab had heavyweight backers including Japan’s SoftBank (SFTBF) and China’s ride-hailing startup, Didi Chuxing.