Delon Wang
Delon is Trends Manager, Asia Pacific at Mintel. He oversees Trends content and Trends client servicing for the region.

Online ride-hailing service Grab announced the possibility of releasing a helicopter taxi service for customers during its fifth anniversary celebration last month.

Currently, the feasibility of the service, called GrabHeli, is still being assessed, but a pilot of the service has already been conducted during Grab Indonesia’s anniversary weekend. As part of the pilot programme, 15-minute helicopter rides were offered to some of the company’s most important customers.

Soaring into something new

Indonesia’s ride-hailing industry has endured a turbulent few years. The apps initially enjoyed a stratospheric rise in the country as consumers embraced an affordable and convenient way to travel, encouraging major global players to target Indonesia for growth. Grab, for example, announced early this year that it was going to invest US$700 million to grow its user base in Indonesia after demand for services grew exponentially in 2016.

However, in mid-2017, new regulations were introduced in Indonesia, with greater oversight on pricing, fleet sizes and licensing. This has led to protests from ride-hailing firms like Grab, Go-Jek and Uber.

While the new regulations are expected to curb the profits of these players, opportunities do exist for ride-hailing apps to leverage their brand equity in new areas. We’ve already seen ride-hailing operators expand into ever more services over the last few years with increasing consumer demand for instant transportation and delivery.

In Indonesia alone, Go-Jek expanded its offering to include a medical delivery service, while Uber launched a sightseeing service for tourists in Bali. Finally, Grab collaborated with Indonesia’s Lippo Group to launch a digital wallet.

What we think

Extending away from core operations makes sense in a market with new and restrictive regulations, particularly if brands can maintain the creativity and quality credentials that allowed them to enjoy success in the first place. This business model is also reflected in Mintel Trend ‘Extend My Brand’, which discusses how brands are expanding into new categories and demographics to find new business as well as intrigue consumers.

While helicopter hailing is unlikely to be a significant source of revenue given its expense and the size of target market (mainly Jakarta’s high-level executives who are looking for ways to avoid the bad traffic), GrabHeli will further add to Grabs identity as a modern, innovative business, making it a worthwhile pursuit. Similar one-click helicopter services have already been launched with UberCHOPPER in Shanghai, and Cabify in Mexico, highlighting the importance of brands connecting with their audience on newgrounds.

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Delon Wang is Trends Manager, Asia Pacific at Mintel. He oversees Trends content and Trends client servicing for the region.