No Grab No Problem. Meet the Ride-Hailing Startup That’s Making An Impact in Laos

When it comes to the buzz and hype surrounding the fast emerging tech startup ecosystem of Southeast Asia, most people would immediately think of Singapore, Vietnam, or Indonesia, which already boasts unicorn startups such as Grab, Gojek and VNG Corporation among their ranks. Not many would consider Laos to be at the forefront of Southeast Asia’s tech renaissance, and indeed it is a market that is oftentimes overlooked due to its small size and limited infrastructure. For instance, the major ride-hailing titans of the region like Grab and Gojek do not have a presence in the country. This means that the underserved and overlooked market of Laos presents many bright opportunities just waiting to be leveraged on by savvy entrepreneurs and startup founders. One such enterprising startup is LOCA, the country’s first ever ride-hailing service app.

One challenge facing Laotians and tourists visiting the country is the opaque and fragmented mobility ecosystem of the landlocked country, which counts a lack of transparency in its pricing structure for its public transportation system as a major concern among a host of other issues, such as poor databases that do not properly keep track of the identity of its fleet of taxi drivers and lack of accessibility outside of major thoroughfares and city centers. Thus, Souliyo Vongdala co-founded LOCA along with Jettana and Johnny Sayasane in 2017 with the intention of addressing these issues while simultaneously offering a high-quality and enjoyable riding experience for its passengers.

Billing itself as the premium private city ride service provider in Laos, the startup differentiates itself by its emphasis on safety and quality of experience. All drivers and vehicles have to meet a certain standard before they are allowed to be its ride-hailing drivers. In addition, to ensure transparency and safety its driver-partners have to undergo verification with the relevant authorities and all are required to have insurance for the protection of their passengers. The app is also fairly simple and intuitive to use and works with all major credit cards, thus allowing for a cashless experience. One distinguishing feature of the ride-hailing startup’s app is that it also offers an insider’s view of the local scene for tourists and visitors, informing them of upcoming events and happenings, locations of top-rated restaurants and places of interest, and so forth. In light of its innovative efforts and contributions to Laos’ startup ecosystem, it was awarded the Startup and Innovation Driven Entrepreneur by the ASEAN Business Awards 2019 in November last year

Initially, the startup had difficulties overcoming the negative perception and misconceptions surrounding the ride-hailing service, with many people erroneously equating the service to the country’s oft-maligned taxi industry. LOCA persevered in raising the public’s awareness of ride-hailing services and along with incentives and promotions eventually grew to serve more than 15,000 customers in a relatively short period of time.

Looking forward, Lao’s first ride-hailing app service startup aims to increase its area of coverage to more cities across the country as well as to expand on its range of services. It is currently collaborating with a minivan association to integrate their fleet of minivans onto its platform for a new service. As more enterprising tech startups like LOCA forge a path forward for Laos’ emerging economy and startup ecosystem, the country may yet finally get the recognition that it duly deserves.

About author

Derek Tan

Derek is the news editor at Absolute Market, a news media focusing on the Southeast Asian tech and startup scene. Contact him at derek [at] for any news pitch.