Name: Yee Wee Tang
Role: Managing Director, Grab Singapore
Before Grab became synonymous with food delivery apps in Singapore, it was known as GrabTaxi, a ride-sharing service. It was during those humble beginnings back in 2015 when Yee Wee Tang joined the company’s Strategy and Business Operations team. More than 7 years later, he leads Grab Singapore as its Managing Director. Today, Wee Tang shares with us what brought him to Grab, his most memorable Grab ride, and what’s next for the superapp.
1. What are some of your hobbies? What do you enjoy doing?
On my own, I like to run. It keeps me physically active and running helps to clear my mind and clarify my thoughts. I also enjoy going on trips with my family where I can spend more time with my children as they grow up. The trips also create precious core memories for us.
2. What is your favourite quote?
“If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.” – Mario Gabriele Andretti, a renowned former racing driver
This resonates with me as I believe in pushing myself out of my comfort zone to grow and do more, do better. It applies to how I work with my team too. I find it especially fulfilling when I see them break through their imaginary glass ceilings and grow in their roles and careers.
Image credit: Grab
3. What is your favourite movie / Netflix show and why?
Like most people, I do not have much time for movies or long shows. What I enjoy are classic comedies with shorter episodes such as The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family. They’re always making me laugh.
4. Who are some people (in the industry or outside) that inspire you?
I have different sources of inspiration. For example, Warren Buffett – his manner of thinking, discipline and generosity as a leader and investor is inspiring. I’m also inspired by our driver- and delivery-partners.
Many of whom I’ve met work hard and persevere despite challenges to make the best of what they have for their families. It inspires me to look for more ways to make the platform more efficient for them.
5. Do you have a daily routine before or after work?
I try to exercise before I start my day during the week, as I often catch myself finding excuses to avoid exercising after a work day. To motivate myself, I’ll follow a running programme that guides me towards a goal – perhaps a half marathon or marathon. Running helps me clear my mind, crystallise my thoughts, and energise me to go on to present my best self for the rest of my day.
I will also do my best to have dinner daily with my family – it’s a commitment and keeps me disciplined.
6. How would people describe you:
Image credit: Grab
Candid; someone who does not take himself too seriously; and nurturing. I do my best to be authentic and upfront with my team so that we can build up mutual understanding which is fundamental to good collaboration and a closer relationship
I want to create a work environment where my team feels comfortable and enjoys coming to the office. I also believe that by looking after my team, they too will look after our users and partners.
7. Three words you’d use to describe yourself:
I strive to be a leader who is 1. Authentic, 2. Decisive, and 3. People-driven.
8. What brought you to Grab?
I was actively looking for my next role when I came across the opportunity with Grab, and remember making my way through an industrial park to a small warehouse-like space in Sin Ming for the interview.
Grab was still an unknown startup then, and I was intrigued by the founding team’s determination to develop a tech platform that will help solve the transport challenges most of us face in this region.
This may sound like a laughable ambition at that point, but the passion and commitment of the founding team really touched me. And I thought, if I can be part of this journey to provide a better commuting experience and make a real difference – why not?
9. When did you realise that Grab needed to be more than a ride-hailing service?
I cannot take credit for Grab’s expansion beyond the ride-hailing industry. That said, I believe technology can help to solve many demand-supply related challenges. While we started a decade ago to provide a safe commute option to people, we went on to discover more problems that our users were facing.
These are problems that our tech and platform can help with. This is why we have gone on to become a super app today that offers transport, deliveries, and financial services to our everyday users.
10. How do you ensure that Grab stays on top of consumer trends?
As our users interact with Grab more frequently to fulfil their transport, delivery, and payment requirements, we see a growing demand for better engagement and functionality to meet other lifestyle needs on a single platform.
As such, and in view of the current macroeconomic climate, we will continue strengthening our value, variety, and affordability proposition. For instance, we’ve rolled out a new Travel Tile in-app, allowing users to book bus and ferry rides to cities in Malaysia and Indonesia, purchase travel insurance and book airport transfers, amongst others.
Image credit: Grab
In addition, we’ve also introduced the GrabUnlimited subscription plan, which provides discount vouchers and exclusive deals for Grab services.
We will continue to refine our offerings to keep up with and meet our users’ needs.
11. What was your most memorable Grab ride?
On one occasion, Anthony and I were distributing angbaos to our driver-partners during Chinese New Year. We would book a Grab ride, board the vehicle, and give out the goodie bags.
There was this ride with a friendly, jovial driver in his sixties who shared a story that left a deep impression. He had recently recovered from a major operation and his recuperation period had been challenging for him and his family. When asked why he continues to drive, he mentioned that being healthy, active and interacting with passengers gives him great fulfilment.
I learned from the long conversation how life can throw many curveballs at you, but one can choose to remain optimistic, and take on the challenges with grace.
12. How does Grab in Singapore differ from Grab in other markets?
Personally, I find that users in Singapore have a higher expectation of Grab. We appreciate this.
Many of our new services and products are piloted here as the feedback we receive really helps us to iterate the features and ensure they provide a better user experience before we roll them out to the rest of Southeast Asia.
13. What were some challenges you faced during Grab’s regional expansion, and how did you overcome them?
Grab was deemed to be a disruptor in the early days when we first entered different markets. It was an uphill battle trying to convince local authorities, traditional transport players, and many other naysayers that our solution can benefit drivers, consumers and drive innovation in the industry. The process was tedious, and at times unpleasant.
However, we chose to focus on finding a win-win for our different stakeholders. My team and I experimented, optimised, and enhanced our platform and services to value add from their perspective to overcome the challenges.
14. During tough times (particularly the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic), what were some critical things that the company did to tide through those periods?
Image credit: Grab
The last 2-3 years were tough for everyone. I think we can all remember the Circuit Breaker period.
At the start of the pandemic, we had to move fast to protect the livelihoods of our driver-partners, while ensuring the safety of our consumers. We managed to make adjustments to our platform to allow our driver-partners to also take on delivery jobs as we saw an upsurge in consumers using such services to send gifts such as flowers, baked goodes, and books to their loved ones.
As our partners and staff became frontliners, we had to make sure that we provided adequate support so that they could remain safe during the period. You may recall that we introduced GrabProtect and offered face masks and sanitisers for our partners to sanitise their vehicles and offer to their passengers where needed.
These were just some of the initiatives we introduced. There were many more as we rolled with the changing Covid safety measures then, ensuring our users’ needs were met.
15. Have you ever tried being a Grab driver like Anthony did?
Image credit: Grab
As opposed to going undercover, we were simply going to the ground to experience what our partners are going through as they pick up passengers or complete a delivery order. I’ve delivered food and groceries before, as with many other Grabbers, and I have also accompanied a few driver-partners throughout their driving shifts.
These experiences enable me to understand what is happening on the ground, whether our app is serving our users well and identify areas for improvement. I always return from these sessions with a long list of follow-ups.
16. How has the culture at Grab changed from when it was a startup to the MNC it is today?
In all honesty, when we were a startup, things moved a lot faster and decisions were made more quickly. As we grow, we are required to adhere to a number of procedures and requirements in order to ensure uniform structures and to maintain accountability. This is part and parcel of becoming a larger organisation.
To preserve the entrepreneurial spirit while navigating rapid and complex evolution cycles, we developed The Grab Way, which consists of 4Hs – Heart, Honour, Humility, and Hunger – to remind Grabbers of our mission, and to inspire us to lead, collaborate, solve problems, and support the community.
17. What was the most memorable moment of your career?
Image credit: Grab
Grab’s public listing ceremony was definitely a highlight, as not many will have the opportunity to build towards an experience such as a milestone. I will never forget the memories and adventures from this journey: the camaraderie, friendships, and moments I shared with my teammates and all our users, especially our driver-, delivery-, and merchant-partners.
18. What do you think is the difference between a boss and a leader?
The first title is an entitlement based on rank, while the second is to be earned. A boss gives orders to employees and seeks control in an authoritative way, while a leader influences and inspires a group of individuals to achieve greatness.
19. How do you motivate your team when they’re experiencing a slump?
It is important to listen without passing judgement. To take on the role of a friend, rather than a coworker, and to understand how they are feeling and why they are struggling. Then I will work out a plan where I or the rest of the team can help to remove any roadblocks or provide additional support if it concerns personal challenges.
20. Any exciting developments (projects, new hires, expansion plans) you’d like to draw our attention to?
Kean Yew and Wee Tang.
Image credit: Grab
Grab Singapore has just partnered with Singapore’s first-ever Badminton World Champion Loh Kean Yew, as our first brand ambassador. Kean Yew is an inspiration, and it is truly an honour to work with him. I am looking forward to future campaigns with him, which will also provide more value and excitement for our users.
This post is part of The Local Spotlight series. If you’d like to be featured, or have a nominee in mind, please drop us a note at [email protected].
Cover image credit: Grab