Grab announced on Monday it has activated the GrabChat instant messenger throughout its markets in Southeast Asia. The service is an in-app chat function that allows riders and drivers to communicate without having to leave the Grab environment.
The feature was introduced in Malaysia last week and now it's rolling out to the rest of Grab's territories for GrabTaxi and GrabCar.
There're a couple of benefits to this idea. One, it saves users time and money when trying to coordinate a pickup. Users can narrow down their location for the driver to find them more easily and the driver can let passengers know if, say, they have trouble locating them or driving to their exact spot. Users don't have to spend money on a text or a call – which can come in handy if you're travelling somewhere.
And two, it can solve potential miscommunication problems in language-rich Southeast Asia. Drivers in markets like Thailand and Indonesia feel it almost appropriate to call before pickup, which makes the rest of the process impossible if you don’t speak their respective languages.
The language barrier isn’t really cleared by a chat app alone, but wait; there’s more. Grab says it wants to provide automatic translation of messages between the region’s languages. That includes English, Bahasa Malaysia, Bahasa Indonesia, simplified Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese.
Localisation will also be included for message templates that will help drivers respond without having to divert attention from their driving. Ready-made messages in English include phrases like "I'm here" and "OK".