Must-Follow Ride-Hailing Thought Leaders in Southeast Asia

By Joanna Viegan

Updated July 23, 2019 at 1:06 pm

While China still reigns as the king of startup innovation in Asia, countries in Southeast Asia are continuing to grow their startup communities. Apart from those in Singapore, the startups based in Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines have been consistently on the rise, with the latter two having one unicorn each. Indonesia, on the other hand,  has four unicorns with the super app Go-Jek leading the pack.

As an emerging business hub, Southeast Asia has also produced several industry thought leaders. With Go-Jek and Grab as their frontrunners in the startup scene, it’s not surprising that there are a handful of experts on ride-hailing services in the region. With that said, here are the thought leaders you should follow to further understand how ride-hailing apps and services have grown and expanded in Southeast Asia.

Nadiem Makarim

Nadiem Makarim, Ride-Hailing Thought Leader
Photo from Go-Jek. Quote from “Go-Jek CEO Nadiem Makarim: This is the lie we tell ourselves about leadership” on CNBC.

Harvard Business School alumnus Nadiem Makarim founded Go-Jek in 2010. The 30-something CEO has grown his business globally with Go-Jek employing more than a million drivers across five countries. The company also offers other services like house cleaning, massage, and auto care. 

With his success, Makarim is regularly interviewed and featured in news outlets and business publications in Indonesia and beyond. Apart from talking about Go-Jek and ride-hailing apps in general, Makarim has also shared his advice to budding entrepreneurs in an invite-only discussion with journalists

Denise Tan

Denise Tan
Photo from Riding Pink. Quote from “Nation’s first women-only ride sharing service revs up” on Free Malaysia Today.

Being a woman in Malaysia is difficult. The country currently ranks fifth as the most dangerous place to live in as a woman in Asia Pacific. The number of reported sex crimes and violence against women in Malaysia in recent years has been staggering.

As a woman, Denise Tan is familiar with the experience, and she knows that numerous offenses against women also happen during their commutes. This knowledge led her to establish Riding Pink, a ride-hailing app exclusively for women. It is also an app that aims to provide an alternative for women to earn money. Tan is a stay-at-home mom and she knows how hard it is for women to have jobs with fixed hours. 

While some might say that Riding Pink has a niche and less profitable market, Tan’s startup which provides safer travel options for women has proven that it can thrive despite unicorns like Grab dominating Malaysia. Tan’s work has been featured in publications such as Vulcan Post and KrAsia. She also continues to be a champion of women empowerment, hosting workshop events in Malaysia.

Anthony Tan

Ride Hailing Thought Leader
Photo from Facebook. Quote from “Grab Founder Anthony Tan On The 5 Key Ingredients To His Success” on Asia Tatler.

It’s impossible to talk about the ride-hailing industry in Southeast Asia without mentioning Grab co-founder Anthony Tan. Tan has been interviewed by networks like BBC and CNBC. Most of his interviews are, of course, about Grab and spend a short time talking about his privileged background as one of the heirs of the Tan Chong Group. 

When Anthony Tan chose to establish his own company with Harvard Business School colleague Tan Hooi Ling, their first angel investor was Anthony Tan’s mother. A few years later, Grab is the number one ride-hailing app in Asia and both founders have made a mark as thought leaders in the ride-hailing business. Anthony Tan, in particular, has served as a speaker in various business events, from the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club’s CEO speaker series luncheon in 2016 to The World in 2019 Gala Dinner.

Nguyen Huu Tuat

Nguyen Huu Tuat
Photo from FastGo Facebook page. Quote from “FastGo: Quick steps on home ground, solid steps in foreign turf” story on Vietnam Investment Review.

Nguyen Huu Tuat is the CEO and Founder of the Vietnam-based taxi-hailing app FastGo. Despite being in the market for less than a year, the company has been successful in its home country and beyond. FastGo has started expanding in Southeast Asia and now has operations in Myanmar and Singapore.  With his company emerging as a top taxi-hailing app in the region, Tuat has already been featured in the Vietnam Investment Review and was chosen as one of the speakers in Tech Finance Asia 2019.

Terrence Zou

Terence Zou
Photo from Ryde. Quote from “Five things we can learn from Naval Commander turned startup founder Terence Zou” story on Ryde.

Former Navy Commander Terrence Zou launched Ryde Technologies in 2015 with the vision of providing a sustainable alternative for daily commuters. In 2019, it has grown to be the city-state’s number one carpooling app. Although Ryde has gained success by offering carpooling options exclusively, it also started offering private car service last year, introducing itself as one of the smaller companies challenging Grab’s dominance. 

With his company’s success and expansion, Zou has been featured in renowned publications like Asia One and Asian Entrepreneur. He has also been a keynote speaker in various events like the Engineering and Systems Design (ESD) Leaders Seminar held in Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).

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