Business Insider Singapore

Grab invited us to check out their spanking new R&D centre in Marina Bay – here’s what it’s like

Grab’s newest R&D centre could be the new standard when it comes to workplace design.
Business Insider/ Jonathan Loh

Southeast Asia’s dominant ride-hailing service Grab has just raised its game with its latest expansion in Singapore.

In December last year, the company unveiled its biggest two-storied research and development (R&D) centre and headquarters at Marina One, a new integrated development nestled in the Marina Bay financial district.

The nearly 100,000 sq ft centre is set to propel the group’s growth as a leading ride-hailing and logistics services provider in the region, with its spaces devoted to engineering and technological research.

Apart from “Grabbers” – the company’s affectionate term for its employees – few have ever gotten the chance to check out what the centre looks like from the inside and details have mostly been kept under wraps.

Business Insider was invited to Grab’s first-ever media reveal of the brand new centre on Thursday (Mar 8). Here’s what it was like.


Being a company that’s heavily hinged on technology and innovation, it’s hardly a surprise that Grab’s office reception area has a few digital offerings of its own.

When we arrived at the reception counter, we were asked to key in personal particulars into a tablet provided – pretty standard stuff.

But what’s cool is that we had to input our host’s name as well. This allows the appointment request to be sent directly to him or her, promptly notifying the host of the visit and possibly for security reasons too.

Like taking selfies? You will be prompted to take one as part of the registration process, so remember to put on your best smile.

Business Insider/ Jonathan Loh

 

The reception area also has an adjoining pantry which offers a variety of drinks and snacks so huge, you would be spoilt for choice.

Business Insider/ Jonathan Loh

The centre houses over 70 meeting rooms and each one is designed to be as conducive as possible for Grabbers to engage in discussion or just to kick back and relax.

As a tribute to its regional roots, the company named its meeting rooms after Singapore mass rapid transit (MRT) stations as well as well-known locations in countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, where Grab operates as well.

Nothing beats a conversation in a cozy room overlooking the coast and city.

Business Insider/ Jonathan Loh

Do keep an eye out for the quirky and inspiring framed photographs featuring Grab’s driver-partners that adorn the centre’s walls.

Showcasing drivers and passengers from all over the region, they serve as a reminder of the company’s multi-national family and the inclusiveness of its workforce.

Business Insider/ Jonathan Loh

The centre boasts a spacious “cafeteria” for Grabbers to convene over meals.

While the area is just massive and is meant to be a place for eating, no food or drinks are actually sold there. Grabbers really just use it as a space to consume food they’ve bought somewhere else.

Business Insider/ Jonathan Loh

Employee welfare and fitness are crucial elements to any company.

In fact, physical wellness is so valued at Grab that it isn’t uncommon to find the CEO in the middle of a conference call while in a planking exercise position, said Ms Ong Chin Yin, head of people at Grab.

The centre is kitted out for this with a gym right next to the “cafeteria” that’s free for any Grabber to use.

At first glance, the gym looked like it could use more equipment and also looks suspiciously underused.

Business Insider/Jonathan Loh

The main office area – for Grab staff only – is home to the engineering, marketing and research teams among many others, with shared spaces and desks to encourage teamwork.

One might be stunned by the realisation that the Grabbers-only office is frequently low on occupancy at any one time. The place looked almost like a ghost town when we were there.

Ms Ong explained that Grabbers are often out in the field doing research and gathering data. Then again, it was lunchtime.

Business Insider/ Jonathan Loh

If Grabbers feel like having some alone time, they don’t have to go far for some peace and quiet.

Scattered around the office are “telephone booths” that accommodate a single person – and no, there is no actual telephone inside. Grabbers can make private phone calls or bring along their laptops to do work in solitude.

There’s an annoying meandering green strip that circles the entire office floor and really, looks out of place. But Ms Ong explained that the so-called “Green Brick Road” is used by Grabbers for their walking exercises.

Sometimes, competitions are held among Grabbers to see who can clock in the most number of steps in a day.

Business Insider/ Jonathan Loh

When sitting at their desks for hours on end has tired them out, Grabbers can move off to specially-placed armchairs that grant them a panoramic view of the financial district.

The setting looked suspiciously similar to the end scene of the movie Fight Club.

Business Insider/ Jonathan Loh

Our verdict: Grab’s new headquarters is certainly not perfect but it’s a piece of art in its own right which many young and established companies looking to restructure or re-decorate could take a leaf from.

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