#Asia OTR: A 22-year-old Singaporean GrabCar driver and her weekend hustle


A tale of how technology can help ordinary people hack their lives and increase their degree of autonomy


Last night around 1am, I heard an incredible story of hustle in a GrabCar.

My driver, a 22-year-old Singaporean student, told me that she had actually rented the car to earn an allowance for herself while she studied full-time.

Intrigued, I pushed for for more information. I told her you’d generally be hard-pressed to find another young Singaporean that would give up their weekends to earn their independence like this. Turns out — she’s from a single parent household so she’s hustling fares in her spare time to ease financial stress off her mother.

The tech reporter in me couldn’t resist in finding out what incentives GrabTaxi had in place to motivate their drivers. She said that while, after factoring in the rental fees and gas money, she just breaks even — she’ll earn a bonus of about $300 SGD if she hits her target number of fares.

She then shared that she’s had a good few incidents where drunk male passengers would try to take advantage of her. “But what can I do?” she said — “it’s Friday and Saturday night where there’s the most fares.” Her mother disapproves of her moonlighting as a GrabCar driver, but her (my driver’s) perspective is that she is 22 already and should be pitching in at home.

I asked her when she was “off” for the night, and she said likely 4am. “I have no choice,” she kept on repeating.

Considering that this 20-something student was giving up her weekends for pure filial piety, you think this would be a story of sacrifice. Aside from incidents with drunk passengers (which I hope she has reported), this was a tale of empowerment.

“It’s a decent living,” she said and considered earning her allowance via GrabCar bonuses as a “clean” way to make money on the side. And not for one second during our 10-15 ride together did she lose her upbeat and positive attitude. I was burning with admiration for her at this point.

Arriving home, I received a text message from her:

“Hey! Thank you so much for being such a joy to drive. You’re officially my favorite passenger! Have fun and stay safe in your travels.”

I don’t know about you, but I think her strong character, hustling spirit and ability to roll with life’s hard knocks would make for a great addition to any startup.

A story like this puts a few things into perspective. Besides chipping away at my ongoing existential crisis, I realised that technology has given ordinary people a myriad of options to improve their lives. In particular, the sharing economy as we all become more comfortable with the concept — has greatly ramped up our degree of autonomy.

I’ve heard stories of many location-independent workers that put their apartment up on Airbnb. When someone books it, they use the cash to fund their travels for that time period. Or if you have a vehicle and are willing to give up your spare hours ferrying people around town, you’re able to make a bit of extra cash to cover your expenses.

Or in my GrabCar driver’s case, you can hustle to make life at home a little easier.

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