Other drivers chose to completely stay away from the chaos.
“I won’t go near the entrance,” says Thang, a 29-year-old Grab driver who works around seven hours a day. “That’s not our territory. The security guard may just tell us to beat it, but the xe oms will hit us.”
Yet these tales are not stopping new recruits. One morning at Grab Hanoi’s office, a fresh batch of drivers were eager to complete their paperwork. It only took 45 minutes, a driver’s license, motorbike registration and insurance to join team Grab.
Grab Vietnam, unlike its main rival Uber, was legally recognized quite early in the game. While it has not disclosed its market share, its representative Lim Yen Hock has said it is the market leader in the motorbike segment, beating its rival Uber who now has over 20,000 drivers. Both companies also provide car services.
On its website, Grab Vietnam says a motorbike driver may earn around $350-440 per month, if they work 48 hours per week.
However, social media accounts and several drivers, including Thang, said they are earning less and less, now that they have to compete with their own peers in the same network.
Thang said these days he usually earns only US$6-10, using the Grab app alone. His solution: he also moonlights as a self-employed driver who picks up random passengers on the street, a practice banned in Grab’s policy.
“If there’s a passenger on the street, why shouldn’t I pick them?” Thang said, acknowledging that this extra work means risks of getting sacked by Grab and clashing with xe om drivers.
An, the spokesperson for Grab Vietnam, has strongly opposed the practice, threatening punishment. “The demand for app-based ride-hailing service is increasing and enough to guarantee an income for our driving partners.”
Such promises of high income have not worked on many xe om drivers.
“The rates they can offer are too low and we can’t accept them,” a middle-aged xe om driver at My Dinh explained why he’s not joining Grab. It is believed that many other old drivers have also been discouraged by technical requirements.
“I’m a customer. I pick the service that doesn’t overcharge and bully its drivers,” reads a comment from Hoang Tuan Kiet, among dozens of similar ones.
“Gradually, Grab will replace traditional xe om drivers," Kiet wrote in a comment upvoted by many readers.
Oliver Massmann, partner at Duane Morris and a respected expert in commercial law in Vietnam, has been watching the ride-hailing market closely.
“For Grab, I understand that they create more jobs, provide cheaper services to customers, so there is no such thing called 'unfair' competition here.” Massmann wrote in an email.
The expert said the country needs “a more 'open' legal framework so that it can adapt with daily changes of technology and science.”
“The chance for GrabBike and UberMOTO to be halted in Vietnam is quite small,” he said. “But if Grab or Uber cannot manage their drivers and incidents like robbing, overcharging, traffic... are still increasing, we cannot say anything for sure.”