New Vietnamese ride hailing app set to outpace Grab

Published:  3 Apr at 6 PM
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Just a few days after Uber pulled out of Southeast Asia after its sale to Grab, a Vietnamese company has launched its own ride-hailing service via a massive investment.

Ride-hailing in Southeast Asia is popular with expats and tourists as well as locals for its inexpensive fixed prices and sheer convenience set against more traditional rides such as the tuk-tuks and songthaews reputedly run by local mafias. Since its set-up in neighbouring Thailand, Uber has faced challenges from locals as well as from lawmakers, and was still branded as illegal when it pulled out of the Southeast Asian market.

The new Vietnamese ride-hailing app is a dream for Nguyen Tri Dung, who’d always wanted to set up a purely Vietnamese product. His Phuong Trang transport company’s initial investment of $100 million proves his conviction the country is ready for a new take on providing a popular transportation service. According to Tri Dung, it’s a win-win situation, with its founder Tran Thanh Nam telling the press the app's rebranding was brought forward a month to take advantage of Grab’s grab of Uber.

The new service, rebranded from Vivu to Vato, differs from its rivals in that its software also functions as a platform for e-commerce, thus allowing users a choice of car types as well as a unique price bargaining option. Vato’s forerunner Vivu debuted a year ago as FaceCar, receiving widespread publicity after a Vietnamese expat in Germany came forward with an investment offer of $1 billion.Unfortunately, the deal was cancelled when the investment proved to be a sham.

It seems Uber’s misfortune has had a positive effect on Vato, as the day after the sale was announced in Vietnam, downloads of the new Vato app hit twice their previous peak, suggesting it’s set to become the go-to service in the country in spite of Grab. Reports in local media suggest Grab is unlikely to get a monopoly, but its drivers and customers are worried about rising fares and a shrinking customer base. As Vietnam becomes ever more popular with expats and tourists, Tri Dung’s investment in the new app looks like a wise move.
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