This week has got off to an extremely eventful start, thanks to the latest announcement of Grab acquiring Uber in the Southeast Asia region.
1. Uber Employees told to pack up and leave within two hours
Uber employees were told to pack up within two hours and leave the uber office at Mapletree Anson in Tanjong Pagar by 12:30 pm on 26th March 2018 when the news of the acquisition broke out, according to an affected employee who worked as a telesales specialist and only wanted to be known as Mr Mohd.
The company broke the news to the employees in a meeting room, and the employee said no information was provided on any compensation they were entitled to.
“During the meeting, we were told to pack up, shut down operations and leave the office by 12.30pm. We were given no updates about severance package or anything,” said the 24-year-old, who joined Uber in March 2017 and was on contract with Uber until September.
According to sources within Uber, the company’s Guoco Tower headquarters was cleared out on 26 March 2018 and employees there were apparently told to vacate the premises by 4:00 pm following the news.
A video of Uber staff in Singapore packing up their belongings and leaving their office in Anson Road soon surfaced on Twitter. The video has since been taken down.
The Twitter user who posted the video told Channel NewsAsia that he, along with other Uber employees, were given two hours’ notice to pack up and leave. They were told that they were “free to find other employment” and no compensation package was offered.
However, Grab rejected claims about the incident that Uber staff in Singapore were given two hours to pack up and leave following the announcement of its merger.
Grab’s regional head of people operations Ong Chin Yin denied earlier reports and social media posts that “hundreds” of employees had been retrenched.
Responding to social media posts regarding Uber employees who had allegedly been given two hours to leave the office, Ong added, “That really wasn’t our call. Their access was also cut very early this morning, and I understand how terrible it can be for some of them.”
2. Singapore’s competition watchdog not notified of Grab-Uber merger
Singapore’s competition watchdog came out and expressed that it has not received formal notifications from Grab and Uber.
The Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS) is writing to both companies to “clarify the details” of the deal, it said on 26th March 2018 in response to queries from Channel NewsAsia.
It stated that under the Singapore’s competition law, mergers that may lead to significantly lesser competition are prohibited.
“In the event CCS finds that a merger situation is expected to result in an SLC (substantial lessening of competition), CCS has powers to give directions to remedy the SLC,” it said.
CCS can require the merger to be unwound or modified. It can also issue interim measures prior to the final determination of the merger.
CCS has the power to review any merger or acquisition that might affect competition in any market in Singapore.
3. Over 500 Uber staff in Singapore placed on paid leave for three months following Grab-Uber merger
More than 500 Uber employees in Singapore have been placed on paid leave in the wake of the company’s South-East Asian operations being acquired by rival ride-hailing firm Grab.
According to Yahoo News Singapore, 50 employees will be redeployed to the Uber office at Mapletree Anson. The remaining staff were placed on paid leave for the next three months as Grab finds new roles for them.
4. Comfort Delgro tells its cabbies to delete Uber app
Singapore’s largest taxi operator and publicly listed ComfortDelGro, in a text message to its estimated 23,000 hirer-drivers on the evening of 26th March 2018, said: “Dear cabbies, UberFlash will cease on April 8 2018. You may delete the Uber driver app any time now since it will no longer be in use. ComfortDelGro will continue to provide you jobs… We thank you for your continued support.”
It added that ComfortDelGro will continue to provide drivers with booking jobs.
Drivers are extremely worried about their livelihoods and many asked if they were able to use JustGrab moving forward.
5. Affected Drivers felt confused and upset, majority feeling lost and unprepared for jobless situation
Mr Ang Hin Kee, who is adviser to both the taxi and private-hire associations, said drivers are worried about their livelihoods following Uber’s exit from South-east Asia. Mr Ang said: “As there was no prior notice given to drivers, they are left feeling unsure about how they can continue with their business and obligations they are under. They are also not sure if potential losses can be recovered or if there might be other lost opportunities.
“We were only told that we were free to apply for other jobs,” an employee of Uber said.
“After the meeting, everyone was left speechless. Some people were in tears. I was devastated and I felt very lost. All of a sudden I was out of a job,” he added.
“Since there were no updates from our supervisor, we weren’t expecting it to affect our jobs,” another uber employee said. “I have no other options at the moment, I definitely feel like we were hung out to dry. The least they could have done is given us more time and notice, rather than just two hours to pack up and leave.”
Another driver, Mr Ady, 30, said the news came “as a shock”. Calling for more clarity on the impact on Uber drivers, Mr Ady said: “There’s no transition period of handing over… It’s all this ambiguity (that is still floating around)… Everyone is unsure, and we don’t know what’s next.”
“We received feedback from concerned private-hire drivers on how their livelihoods may be affected, in particular those whose contracts are with Lion City Rentals (owned by Uber). These drivers are only allowed to use Uber, and I understand some of them have tried to contact LCR or Uber’s office but to no avail,” added Mr Ang.
6. Grab prepares work spaces for ex-uber staff
Grab will be integrating Uber’s ride-sharing and food delivery business into its existing platforms.
Uber will take a 27.5 per cent stake in Grab and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will join Grab’s board.
Uber drivers and riders, UberEats customers, merchant partners and delivery partners will be migrated to the Grab platform, as the two companies vowed to work together to ensure a quick transition.
The Uber app will continue to operate for two weeks while Uber Eats will be available until the end of May, after which Uber delivery and restaurant partners will move to the GrabFood platform.
7. Car rental contracts uncertain
Mr Mervyn Tan, an admin for a 28,000-strong Facebook group for Uber and Grab users, said he has seen numerous posts in the group with many drivers asking about their existing contracts with Uber’s car rental partner Lion City Rental since news broke on 26th March 2018.
“Their number one worry above everything else is money. Everything related to money is what they worry about. Will they have a job after Apr 8? Are they able to get out of the contract?” said Mr Tan.
Lion City Rentals is operated by Lion City Holdings, a car rental subsidiary that is wholly-owned by Uber in Singapore.
A Grab spokesperson later told Channel NewsAsia on 27th March 2018 that Uber drivers with a Lion City Rental (LCR) car can continue with their contract and accept Grab bookings moving forward.
The rental company circulated an SMS to its hirers to reiterate that their rental would not be impacted, and that it was working with Grab to “onboard” its hirers onto Grab’s platform.
After their contract with LCR expires, these drivers can opt to rent a car from one of Grab’s 50-odd fleet partners.
For previously blacklisted or terminated drivers with Grab, Grab has said these drivers can appeal their suspension.
Lion City Rental posted that it is “closed until further notice” on Facebook and has reached out to hirers through SMS saying that it will contact them in the coming days.
“Since they have already taken the initiative to send out an SMS saying that they will initiate contact, we will see what they say. Clearly, they have the obligation to answer to their hirers, especially those with contracts,” Mr Ian Liow, an uber driver said.
8. Repeated assurances from key personnells and organisations
Following the announcement of Grab's takeover deal, we received feedback from concerned private hire drivers on how…
Member of Parliament Ang Hin Kee, who is also an executive adviser to the National Taxi Association, said that he is aware of these concerns.
In a Facebook post, he said that “both the NTA and the National Private Hire Vehicles Association have shared drivers’ concerns with LTA and the CCS”.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has also assured employees that they are “following the situation closely” and is able to provide employment assistance services to any of the affected employees through the Workforce Singapore and NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute.
Employees facing employment-related disputes can approach the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management.
9. A clear communication breakdown between Grab and Uber’s upper management and its drivers/employees (one of its stakeholders)
A townhall was eventually held on 27th March 2018 for affected employees.
Grab has reached out to displaced staff from Uber, assuring them that they will be offered roles in the new merged entity.
In a one-hour townhall at Shine Auditorium at Shaw Towers on the afternoon of 27th March 2018, Grab co-founders Anthony Tan and Tan Hooi Ling, as well as Uber’s Asia-Pacific chief business officer Brooks Entwistle addressed a group of more than 200 staff from both companies.
“Grab can definitely use all of the talented individuals in the Uber team. We still have big ambitions with Grab, not just in transport, but also food, delivery, payments, financial services and more. How we can make that happen will be part of the further conversations between Grab and all Uber employees,” its spokesman said.
Contract staff with Uber were not invited to the townhall, and Grab said it will work with agencies managing contract staff to place them in “appropriate roles”.
Miss Ong said, “It’s not an easy time … we can understand. It’s a time of transition for us and Uber. We are trying our best to use channels to reach out (to those affected) as soon as possible and be supportive.”
As reported from Channel NewsAsia, Ong justified that Grab did not “have the email addresses of Uber employees” which is why the company could not reach out to the affected employees on 26th March 2018.
Ms Ong added that Grab will organise Uber employees into teams similar to while they were in Uber, and that they will be offered terms that are “substantially similar packaged”. For those who do not take up the offer, Grab will work out a compensation package with them, she said.
10. New ride-hailing app Ryde joins the industry at this opportune time
Ryde, Homegrown carpooling app, announced swiftly on 28th March 2018 that it will be launching RydeX, its new private-hire car service, as part of its growth expansion strategy.
Ryde has already started accepting sign-ups of drivers via the Ryde app, and aims to have 5,000 full-time drivers. It currently has a combined fleet of more than 55,000 drivers – both private cars and taxis – that serve 300,000 passengers a day.
“Offering private-hire car services would complete our mobility suite to serve our users better,” said founder and CEO of Ryde Technologies Terence Zou.
“We’ve always been planning to enter into the private hire space to complete our mobility suite, but right now I think is also an opportune time, I think the market needs more competition and that’s where we can provide consumers and drivers with an alternative platform and way to get around,” he said.
He added the move is a “natural extension” of the business, and not a response to Uber exiting the market here.
Ryde said the driver’s commission rate will be reduced to 10 per cent, stating the savings will be passed on to commuters in the form of lower fares and to drivers in the form of higher earnings.
“We have been receiving positive feedback to launch RydeX as a new private-hire service,” said Mr Zou.
(image of Mr Terence Zou)
“We hope to provide commuters a cheaper alternative to get around and drivers a way to make a decent living. Ultimately, our mission is to make a positive social impact in people’s lives.”
Singapore’s first and only Hello Kitty themed cafe to shut down in 2019
All good things come to an end — and so it shall be with Hello Kitty. Not the actual character of course, but the themed cafe inspired by the iconic feline character at Changi Airport Terminal 3. Earlier today, the 24-hour eatery announced in a Facebook post that they will officially shut its doors for good on February 8, 2019.
This piece of news came as a shock to Hello Kitty’s throng of diehard fans, who queued up for hours on the cafe’s opening day in May 2016 just to snap selfies with the beloved character. No statement has been issued as to why Hello Kitty Orchard Garden would be closing down, but according to operator Europa Specialty Restaurant, an end of licensing and partnership with Sanrio is the reason for closure.
To mark its departure, the cafe will be throwing tea parties over two weekends in December. It’ll be all fun and games, and don’t forget to savour their feline-shaped waffles and smoked salmon quiche for one last time.
However, be prepared to spend. A ticket for two sells at $138, and it comes with food and drinks, limited edition Orchids For You figurines and exclusive thank-you cards autographed by Hello Kitty herself.
Guess goodbye really comes at a cost. Buy your tickets here.
Popular influencer NasDaily releases video celebrating Singapore
After making a surprise announcement that he was coming to Singapore to film a video, popular travel vlogger NasDaily releases a one miniature long video celebrating all the things we take for granted as citizens of the little red dot.
Nas is famously known for his daily one minute videos which he uploads on his Facebook page, NasDaily. The influencer is known for travelling all over the world and learning about cultures and practices and then making videos about them to educate his viewers.
On Tuesday (21 Aug), Nas put out a post on Facebook announcing that he was visiting Singapore on 22 August and asked fans to gather outside the Singapore Indoor Stadium to be part of his video.
On the day, over 700 people turned up to be part of this experience.
The video, which was released on 23 August, is entitled “Why I Hate Singapore” and it basically celebrates Singapore’s ethnic diversity as well as many things that Singaporeans take for granted such as the food and the fact that we have drinkable and clean water running from our taps.
While the video acknowledged problems Singaporeans face such as inequality and the high cost of living, it did so in a way that glossed over the problems and encouraged people to appreciate what we have.
At the event meet up itself, which was changed from outside the Esplanade to the Singapore Sports Hub, which agreed to help the star to shoot his video without break-in any anti-gathering laws, participants got to enjoy Nas’s highly energetic self.
The vlogger talked with fans and gave them a glimpse into what producing his videos took.
Despite the crowd, fans were thrilled to be part of this journey with Nas.
Shoes collection at Vivocity to help Soles4Souls fight global poverty
One person’s unwanted shoes can help provide meaningful opportunities that many in developing nations need, which is why VivoCity, the largest retail and lifestyle destination in Singapore has launched a shoe drive to collect 25,000 pairs of new or gently-worn shoes.
The shoes will be delivered to a non-profit social enterprise, Soles4Souls, that creates sustainable jobs and provides relief through the distribution of shoes and clothing around the world. Founded in 2006, the organization has distributed more than 30 million pairs of new and gently-worn shoes in 127 countries.
The World Bank estimates that approximately 767 million people live on less than $1.90 per day. Many people living in extreme poverty simply do not have access to stable employment.
Soles4Souls’ micro-enterprise programmes offer a long-term solution to poverty through job creation in places like Haiti, Honduras, and Sierra Leone. They also give a second life to unwanted shoes, keeping them out of landfills, and protecting the environment.
“VivoCity is pleased to support Soles4Souls’ mission,” said Ms Gwen Au, Vice President for Marketing Communications, Mapletree Commercial Property Management. “To know that we can create meaningful impact around the globe by simply collecting and donating what is otherwise destined for the trash is a really great feeling.”
The shoes are sold for an average of $1 per pair to non-profit partners in developing countries, that provide business training to local entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs purchase the shoes and are then able to start businesses of their own selling the product in their local marketplaces. This allows entrepreneurs the opportunity to earn a sustainable income, and ultimately purchase necessities like food, shelter and education.
The income generated by selling just one pair of shoes in Haiti can provide five meals for a family in need, whereas 30 pairs sold by an entrepreneur in Honduras can provide up to a year of schooling for a child. Revenue generated by Soles4Souls’ micro-enterprise operations funds the organization’s free distribution programs, that provide new shoes to people in need both in the U.S. and around the world.
“Millions of pairs of shoes lay idle in people’s closets,” said Au. “We would like to encourage Singaporeans to give those to Soles4Souls instead, and know that they are taking a step to help disrupt the cycle of poverty around the globe.”
VivoCity’s shoe drive for Soles4Souls information:
- Now through August 12th, 2018, bring your new or gently-worn shoes of any kind to VivoCity and drop off your donations at:
- 1 Harbourfront Walk, Singapore 098585, official collection points located at Basements 1 & 2
- Participating stores where donors can enjoy exclusive offers upon donating the shoes in-store.
Soles4Souls disrupts the cycle of poverty by creating sustainable jobs and providing relief through the distribution of shoes and clothing around the world. Headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, the organization repurposes product to supply its micro-enterprise, disaster relief and direct assistance programs. Since 2006, it has distributed more than 30 million pairs of shoes in 127 countries and generated over $250 million in economic impact. A non-profit social enterprise, Soles4Souls earns more than half of its income and commits 100% of donations to programs. Visit soles4souls.org for more information.
With over 1 million square feet of lettable floor space attracting a diverse mix of over 300 retailers, large event places, including an outdoor amphitheatre, a 20,000-square-feet open plaza and a 300 metre long waterfront Promenade, VivoCity is Singapore’s largest and most diverse retail and lifestyle destination designed by world-renowned architect, Toyo Ito. VivoCity is a Mapletree Commercial Trust property.
About Mapletree Commercial Trust
MCT is a Singapore-focused REIT that invests on a long-term basis, directly or indirectly, in a diversified portfolio of income-producing real estate used primarily for office and/or retail purposes, whether wholly or partially, as well as real estate related assets. MCT’s portfolio comprises of VivoCity, Mapletree Business City I, PSA Building, Mapletree Anson, and Bank of America Merrill Lynch HarbourFront. These five assets have a total Net Lettable Area (“NLA”) of 3.8 million square feet valued at $6.337 billion as of March 31, 2017.