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Remarks by Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Finance, at Groundbreaking Ceremony of Grab Headquarters on 29 March 2019, at One-North

29 Mar 2019

Mr Anthony Tan, CEO and Co-Founder of Grab
Ms Tan Hooi Ling, Co-Founder of Grab
Distinguished Guests
Good Morning

Transforming the Economy through Research, Innovation and Enterprise

1. Over the last few days, I have spent many hours with the Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council. We had excellent support from some of the world’s best researchers, heads of universities and heads of companies who were in Singapore, and also some of our tech entrepreneurs from all over the region, including Singaporeans who were based in various parts of the world. They discussed with us the Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council’s strategy as part of our effort to transform our economy. 

2. When you think about it, this is an area which is going to pervade many different sectors. The Grab business model is certainly an interesting model where you are combining the digital and the physical. With digital technology, information can be transmitted across instantaneously. That allows for a whole range of different correlation of activities. It allows us to use spare capacity much more effectively. For instance, it is not meaningful for drivers to ply the roads aimlessly, hoping that by chance, they will get some customers. 

3. At the same time, despite the digital technology, like I said in the Budget, despite the bits and bytes, we still need our bites. We still need food, so GrabFood is a good example of that. We still need to go from place to place. We still need to see people and meet people, and the combination of the digital and the physical is a very important aspect of the new way forward. 

4. So it is not just about the concept, it is really to put into action. How do we innovate and how do we do it in a way that allows us to create the maximum benefit? In a way, the Grab model is interesting in that you are empowering partnerships across many, many different parties. In particular, the “technology for good” is an excellent initiative. There is debate over whether our research incubator works for economic benefit or social benefit or security. I would say that it’s all of the above, and “tech for good” is an excellent example of how we can combine the economic value of what we do with the social value of what we do, and empower many more people who have the need. 

5. I hope that we do not think in silos, but rather we think about how we can create value all round. In our collective efforts to ensure that we serve the needs of our customers, we serve the needs of people around us - your partners, whether they are entrepreneurs or whether they are people with special needs. So all these are very meaningful.

Singapore as a Global-Asia Node of Technology, Innovation and Enterprise

6. Looking at your new building, I think that creating a centre like this where you can bring thousands of Grabbers together is an excellent idea because you have many, many centres all over the world now, you have operations all over the world, and how Singapore can be a Global-Asia node of technology, innovation and enterprise – these fit very nicely with what Singapore is looking to do, and we will continue to support innovative companies like yours to continue to break new frontiers.
7. As I’ve said, Southeast Asia is very big market. We have very different needs, very diverse, and if we are able to do this, we can create value for people all around us. Yesterday, when I was at the NTU students' union forum, I reminded the students how important it was for our young people to have that cross-culture literacy and the confidence to interact with people from all over the world. The more we can form partnerships like this, the more we understand other people, the more we can create value together, and create many, many meaningful partnerships. 
8. I hope that you will continue to break many new frontiers and empower your business model. On that note, let me congratulate Anthony and Hooi Ling. I wish you great success ahead. Thank you.