Grabathon 9.0 Recap

Hackathons are an important part of the tech ecosystem – building a software/production/solution in a short amount of time always piques the interest of tech enthusiasts.

We recently concluded our ninth season of Grabathon – an annual hackathon – for Grabbers (that’s what we call each other) from different backgrounds and roles to come together and solve problems that help our consumers. 

Grabathon sees groups of Grabbers come up with working prototypes for current business problems, all within 48 hours! This hackathon provides an opportunity for the teams to exercise their creativity, innovate and create technology solutions that will benefit Grab’s consumers and partners. It also increases team engagement through self directed and dynamic learning!


The History of Grabathon

Our first Grabathon was a 24 hour event to allow Grabbers to demonstrate Proof Of Concepts of cool ideas they had. It was such a resounding success (with several ideas eventually going into production or becoming stepping stones for future projects and products) that it became an annual event that continues to grow.

Raghudevan Shankar, Full Stack Lead Software Engineer, is a veteran in Grabathon, having participated in every Grabathon since 2017’s fourth iteration. “What has kept me coming back is the evolving experience in and around the event! At its core, it’s all about hacking innovative solutions to interesting problems.” He also gives kudos to the organising team, “when Grab introduced the Grab Way principle of working, they took a kaizen (spirit of adaptability) approach to engagement. Over the last two iterations, it has gone from a simple hackathon to a festive event filled with tech talks, kahoot quizzes & games! As a participant, I’m thankful for the added value and dimensions of meaningful engagement they’ve provided.”

Our Grabathon mascot evolving over the years, and being very socially responsible with that mask last year.


Grabathon 2020 – our first Virtual version thanks to COVID-19


Grabathon 9.0 Roundup

Now that we know the genesis of how Grabathon came about, let’s do a quick rundown of what went on this year!

For Grabathon 9.0, we had five themes for Grabber teams to participate in: 

  • Super-charged Growth (MTUs), 
  • Consumer Candy (Engagement), 
  • Golden Faithfuls (Loyalty initiatives),
  • Platformers (Coding) 
  • GrabForGood (Social Impact)! 

Senior Tech Learning Program Manager Isha Gera, who was part of the organising committee, felt that Grabathon 9.0. gave teams the ultimate avenue and opportunity to go all out and out serve our users. “We are constantly looking for ways to get more users to download and use our app more often as well as influence them to keep staying with us; and that’s exactly what this year’s themes did. The focus on growth, engagement, loyalty, platformization and social impact provided an inclusive platform for teams to ideate, innovate and build a diversified range of ideas.” 

Here are some other fun facts and figures on Grabathon 9.0!

Grabathon participants hunkered down from 16 to 18 September to work on their prototypes. Three days of intense participation, fireside chats, engagement activities and brilliant ideas culminated in an unforgettable experience for Grabbers around the world. 

First-time Grabathon participant, Siti Zulhusna Binti Zulkefli, Map Operations Coordinator, was very enthusiastic in participating, and making positive changes in the way Grab works. “I was very excited for my first Grabathon and was very curious on how a hackathon in Grab would be conducted. It was an amazing experience meeting and cooperating with Grabbers from different time zones to build something awesome!”

Siti and her Grabathon 9.0 team!

Grabathon is such an annual draw that Yogesh Parthasarathy was barely first week into his role at Grab and dove straight into hacking! “As soon as I set my laptop up on my first day, I found a team on the Grabathon channel and messaged my manager to put me in touch with potential engineers. Grabathon accelerated my onboarding as I had to quickly get access to data, documentation and design files within 1-2 days. In the process, I met 25+ wonderful Grabbers and by the end of it, I had a much better idea of Grab’s people and products – all thanks to Grabathon!”

Beyond hacking solutions out, Grabathon plays host to many of our tech friends from other organisations. We had the privilege of welcoming prestigious speakers from Microsoft and AWS for fireside chats to motivate our participants and ensure that they’re geared up to make great impact with their projects. Shin Yi Low, Business Operations Manager, had an amazing time tuning into these conversations. “Grabathon and its fireside chats were truly rewarding learning experiences! As a non-tech Grabber, it gave me a peek into not just Grab’s product development processes, but valuable insights from other companies.”

We also had inspiring speeches from our various Engineering Heads. Flagging off the first day was the trio of Srinivas Chamarthy, Head of Engineering, Grab Financial Group, Vikas Agrawal, CTO, Grab Financial Group, and Suthen Thomas, CTO, Mobility, Apex, Deliveries & Experiences. These leaders chartered the direction for Grabathon participants into a 48-hour timeline of building innovative solutions for our Grab products. Srinivas recalls the buzz and excitement around the virtual room, “While we were all physically apart, the collective hum of excitement was very apparent, and I never felt more proud to be a Grabber.”

Aside from inspiring fireside chats, Grab teams leveraged on having consultation sessions with Grabathon Mentors. This mentor group is made up of volunteering senior tech leaders who are always keen in paying it forward. Shashank Prabai, Engineering Lead for the Grab for Business product, is a two-time Grabathon mentor and enjoys doing so. “Grabathon mentors work with multiple teams & bring a unique, birds-eye view perspective to help them succeed – while the teams are building solutions tirelessly. As a mentor, I was able to guide my teams in narrowing down MVPs, refining their goals, optimising their technical approaches and preparing for edge questions from the judges. It was a memorable experience with such talented team members!”

On the final day, the teams went into two phases: Exhibit and Pinnacle! Exhibit saw all teams present their prototypes to a judging panel of tech leaders. The entries were amazing and insightful. Judge Andrea Carlevato, Head of APEX Engineering, had many tough calls to make. “We had dozens of cross-functional Grabathon squads that went a long way spotting and attacking highly relevant and impactful opportunities to make Grab’s consumers, partners and merchants experience a bit easier and more delightful. A ton of great ideas got prototyped in record time and we had a lot of fun joining such an escalation of creativity and by learning so much from each other!”

Pinnacle was the moment of truth for the team finalists, when they had to present their ideas to our co-founders, Anthony Tan & Tan Hooi Ling! After a detailed presentation, and fiery QnA session, team Grabosaurus Rex emerged as the champions of Grabathon 9.0! 

Team representative, Christopher Lukas Collard, Lead Product Manager, Deliveries Merchant, was shocked when they heard the announcement via Zoom, “We signed up to grabathon because we were super passionate about the problem we were trying to solve. And Grabathon was the perfect outlet for us to spend two days hacking on possible solutions.”

“The fact that we ended up winning was the cherry on top. I personally am looking forward to Grabathon 10!”

Srinivas Chamarthy, Head of Engineering for our R&D centre in India is very thankful for the continuous support and participation by Grabbers. “Grabathon has always been the embodiment of the #OneGrab spirit as Grabbers across the globe come together to create and solutionize amazing things. This was especially true this year when 422 Grabbers participated and built some avant-garde solutions we can use to take Grab further in our vision to be Southeast Asia’s leading superapp. The solutions from our finalist team really wow-ed our judges and we were wondering how they managed to build these solutions in just 48 hours! We’ve really got to say thank you to all the Grabathon 9.0 superheroes and participants for making this happen. Grabathon 9.0 wouldn’t have been such a success without each and every one of you.” 

At Grab we’re always looking for ways to excite our tech grabbers to continuously do good. From hackathon idea contributions, to making great impact in our everyday work, if you’re up for fulfilling challenges, check out for open roles today!