GRAB has launched a tech centre in Indonesia to serve as an innovation hub to build tech solutions for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in South-east Asia, the firm announced on Tuesday.
In a speech at the launch of the centre on Tuesday, Grab chief Anthony Tan said the firm wants to enable digital and financial inclusion in Indonesia, "one of our two headquarters".
"With our tech centre, we're going to invest more in local tech talent development and groom the next generation of Indonesian tech leaders ... Grab is here to contribute to Indonesia on her path to economic recovery," he said.
Grab Indonesia's president Ridzki Kramadibrata said in a statement that the firm is "committed to long-term, sustainable development in Indonesia, which is home to our second headquarters".
The company, which also has its headquarters in Singapore, had announced plans for its second headquarters in Jakarta in July 2019, to house its research and development efforts and to also serve as its second headquarters for its food-delivery business. The firm had then also said that it would invest US$2 billion into the country over five years, with capital from SoftBank.
Tuesday's tech centre launch was attended by Indonesian Cabinet ministers such as Luhut Pandjaitan, the Coordinating Minister of Maritime and Investment Affairs, and Airlangga Hartarto, Coordinating Minister of Economic Affairs.
Mr Pandjaitan said: "For Indonesia to become the largest digital economy in South-east Asia, we need partners like Grab, who are willing to commit not only capital, but resources to help develop tech talent and infrastructure in our country."
Mr Hartarto said that Grab has been a "strategic partner" of the Indonesian government on MSME digitalisation, for which there is a "real urgency".
In its statement, Grab said the centre - with facilities taking up 12,000 sq m and spread over nine floors - will focus on researching, designing and testing tools and technology for the Indonesian MSME market first; this know-how will be exported to other emerging markets in South-east Asia.
The firm noted that Indonesia has more than 64 million MSMEs, but only 16 per cent are digitalised, making the country "an ideal testbed for Grab's technologies that aim to make it easy for even the smallest business to go online".
Citing a report by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies and Tenggara Strategic, Grab said that it contributed US$5.4 billion to the Indonesian economy in 2019. Its investments into Indonesia come at a time when the country has been trying to attract more foreign investors, but faces significant challenges.
In October, the government passed the Omnibus Law, a series of measures that cuts red tape for businesses, in a bid to attract more foreign investments. However, the law has come up against fierce resistance from critics, who say that it weakens labour and environmental protections.