Grab’s acquisition of Uber is an utter mess


This past few days has given us all the confirmation that Grab is helmed by a juvenile team and has no idea how to actually run a company. This is demonstrated when they treat their staff and workers with complete disrespect. We have frequently heard driver’s allegations staff mismanagement: the bugs in the their technology, the contempt they have for workers and their unforgiving rewards system. But this episode gives us the clearest indication of mismanagement.

Look at what happened over this past few days:

a.) There was no clear communication to staff, everyone was hit by fear, uncertainty and doubt

There were news reports telling us that staff of Uber were told to pack up and leave within two hours. It is apparent that no one knows what’s going on and staff were left thinking they were fired. It was only hours later that they found out that they were forced to take leave until such time that they were found new roles.

“During the meeting, we were told to pack up, shut down operations and leave the office by 12.30pm. We were given no updates about severance package or anything,” said the 24-year-old, who joined the company in March last year and whose contract was to run until September.

“After the meeting, everyone was left speechless. Some people were in tears. I was devastated and I felt very lost. All of a sudden I was out of a job,” said a Mr. Mohd to the press.

b.) There was no communication to stake holders

Uber themselves clearly doesn’t know what to do either. They have made no effort to communicate with even the trade associations. National Trades Union Congress assistant director-general Ang Hin Kee, who is the executive adviser to the National Private Hire Vehicles Association, said the labour movement tried to contact Uber on Monday to get more information but “all the phone lines, emails were out and we couldn’t get in touch with anybody”.

Two big multi-national firms are unable to man their phone lines? And they dare boast of technological advancements?

c.) There was no communication to regulating bodies

Even the Competition Commission of Singapore did not receive formal notice of Grab’s acquisition. Two big multinational firms with legal departments that are able to challenge driver’s claims day in and out, are unable to advice themselves of administrative duties? Unbelievable.

d.) There was only one piece of public communication, and it was through Facebook

You know when someone wants to breakup with you and they do it through a text message? This is it. One would expect a disaster of this scale to be addressed by their chief. Nope, this is just their version of the HR Director. “…do pass (the message) on to your colleagues”, is the best that they could do.

Why is there no formal chain of contact? Why this informal means of calling for people to a town hall meeting? And should this town hall meeting be scheduled long before the acquisition was done?

e.) It appears that this company has no idea what to do and how to do it

All this is just very sloppy work. Everything could have been prepared in advance, press could have been alerted in advance and trade union partners be roped in to help. And now, what they have on their hands is both an operational, substantial and a PR disaster. A mess.

They have made money by making more cabs available to consumers, however this pig is now starting to become more human-like (a George Orwell reference, for those of you unfamiliar). It is time to remind them of who has enabled them to churn a profit – it is the people and the people’s strong support that has kept government intervention at bay.

They have survived thus far by hiding behind the cloak of technology, calling themselves a “tech business” and not a “taxi business”. However, they won’t be able to do this for long. Courts around the world have passed decisions and confirmed that they are in substance, in the business of taxis. In Singapore, they should be regulated like so.

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