GrabTaxi opens US$100M R&D center in Singapore

The taxi booking service provider is setting aside US$100 million over the next few years to fund a research facility, tapping data analytics and identify market trends to drive its growth strategy.

GrabTaxi has opened a US$100 million research and development (R&D) facility in Singapore to tap data analytics and identify market trends to drive its growth strategy.

Spanning 4,500 square feet, the new facility is the company's first technology hub and located in the country's central business district. The US$100 million investment will spread over "a few years" and a "significant portion" will go toward hiring some 200 data scientists and engineers, responsible for analyzing data from multiple sources, the company said. The team will compromise executives from Facebook, Amazon, and Palantir Technologies, it added.

One such hire is Wei Zhu, who formerly led the engineering team that developed Facebook Connect. Now GrabTaxi CTO and head of the new research center, Wei said: "GrabTaxi offers a unique opportunity for engineers to work on meaningful problems that has a huge impact on the world outside of the more traditional places like Silicon Valley in the United States."

The taxi booking company currently operates in 20 cities across six Southeast Asian countries, including Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand, and runs a network of more than 75,000 vehicles. Its booking volume increased 10-fold last year, and it currently processes seven bookings every second via its mobile app. To date, the booking app has clocked more than 3.8 million downloads.

GrabTaxi collects a fee from every successful booking. In Singapore, for instance, it takes 30 cents for each booking it transacts.

Thien Kwee Eng, assistant managing director at Singapore's Economic Development Board, said: "Data analytics is an important capability that will boost the growth for companies in Singapore. We are pleased GrabTaxi has decided to base its R&D center here to develop analytics-related applications for its business."

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