Bolt Invests 300m Baht in Local Expansion To Boost Thai Market

The prominent Estonian tech giant, Bolt, is committing 300 million baht to strengthen its presence in Thailand, as an integral part of its Southeast Asian growth plan.

This decision was made subsequent to its successful funding round of €628 million, with a valuation of €7.4 billion, geared towards geographic expansion.

Bolt’s growth intensifies the existing rivalry in the local ride-hailing industry, with emerging companies battling with dominant entities such as Grab, Line Man Taxi and Air Asia.

Following the pandemic, the demand for ride-hailing services is on the rise again.

In the previous year, Grab Taxi (Thailand), the local operational unit of Grab, reported a profit of 576 million baht, marking their first positive earnings after a decade of operation in the country. The group has also set its sights on profitability for the current year.

Bolt regards Thailand as a significant market due to its existing demand for ride-hailing services, economic growth, and its status as a tourist destination, according to Nathadon Suksiritarnan, Bolt’s manager for Thailand, in an interview with the Bangkok Post.

Thailand is the sole Southeast Asian nation where the company currently operates.

Mr Nathadon believes that Thailand’s ride-hailing market still has the potential to reach up to 50% of the population, a significant increase from the current less than 10%.

He projected the ride-hailing industry in Thailand to potentially swell to 160 billion baht from the current 78 billion within the next five years, reflecting a compound annual growth rate of 9.4%.

Before joining Bolt, Mr Nathadon held a managerial role at Ernst and Young (Thailand), showcasing expertise in strategic planning, transactions, financial modeling, due diligence, analysis, and project management.

Over the coming three years, Bolt plans to invest 300 million baht in Thailand. These funds are set aside for service expansion and to provide opportunities for new drivers to join Bolt’s platform in 2023, stated Mr Nathadon.

Bolt anticipates a double increase in the number of drivers on its platform by the year’s end.

Since mid-2020, Bolt has been offering ride-hailing services in Thailand, registering triple-digit growth annually. The company was granted a ride-hailing license by the Department of Land Transport.

According to Mr Nathadon, this service contributes to economic expansion through job creation and innovative mobility solutions.

Being fully aware of the competitive market in Thailand, Bolt aspires to offer consumers an alternative choice, promoting healthy competition, added Mr Nathadon.

Bolt follows a unique business approach that emphasizes “gravity”, as Mr Nathadon refers to their wise and targeted investments and lean, flexible operations.

“That’s why we could operate without charging commission fees to our drivers over the past few years, offering competitive fares to passengers,” Mr Nathadon explained.

Starting from June 12, Bolt will begin to charge a 15% commission fee from its drivers.

Mr Nathadon stated that this fee will be reinvested in introducing new features, like enabling customers to book services in advance.

Currently, Bolt offers its ride-hailing services in Bangkok, Phuket, and Chiang Mai.

Youth make up the majority of the passengers, and the company is exploring strategies to attract other customer demographics, added Mr Nathadon.

Bolt intends to roll out corporate mobility services for business clients shortly, according to Mr Nathadon. In other regions, Bolt extends services such as food delivery, scooter rentals, and e-bike sharing.

“Our goal is to help people transition from private cars to shared mobility, while creating more earning opportunities in Thailand,” Mr Nathadon stated.

Bolt operates in 45 countries and 500 cities across Europe and Africa, serving over 100 million customers. On a global scale, the company aims to achieve profitability at the group level within 12 months and does not foresee the need for additional capital.