Asias

Pandemic delivers first crisis lessons to Southeast Asia’s Grab

By Aradhana Aravindan and Anshuman Daga

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – In the early weeks of the coronavirus outbreak, Anthony Tan, the CEO of Southeast Asia’s biggest ride-hailing firm, recalls how he mistook the infection to be a China-only problem, similar to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in 2003.

As COVID-19 turned into a pandemic, sending markets into a tailspin, the 38-year-old sought advice from titans among his investors including Softbank’s Masayoshi Son and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella.

The message was clear. No one knew how long the crisis would last or how deep it would be. Tan, who co-founded Grab in 2012 with fellow Harvard Business School alumni Tan Hooi Lin, learnt he had to set thresholds and make decisive moves, even if they were unpopular.

“There’s no more debate, it’s just execution,” he said.

In June, the Singapore-based company laid off around 360 employees, just under 5% of its headcount, after

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