We recently had the opportunity to interview Sam Gellman, General Manager of Uber Hong Kong, on the company’s PR strategy, brand launch insights and Uber’s challenges and opportunities in Asia.
Sam Gellman has played a lead role in Uber’s expansion into international markets, first growing Uber Europe in 2012 through the launch of its headquarters in Amsterdam and also leading the London office.
In 2013, Sam moved to Asia as Uber’s Head of Asia Expansion, initially managing Singapore and since then leading the company’s build-out into 25 cities across Asia, from New Zealand to China to Japan. As GM for Uber in Hong Kong, Sam also oversees operations in Taiwan and Macau.
1. Do you see PR and communications as a key ingredient in your marketing mix for launching in Asia?
Uber seamlessly connects riders with a safe, reliable ride in 55 cities across Asia. The goal is to make cities safer, more accessible and affordable, while also creating business opportunities for drivers. There are millions of amazing stories happening every day. PR and communications can help Uber share compelling stories to the public via influential media.
2. What are the three key things you need to do to successfully launch a new brand in Asia?
Asia is a very dynamic region and we need to approach each market differently.
Above all, we need to find fantastic local talent to help us understand the culture and dynamics of new markets. For example, we have UberVAN in Hong Kong, which accommodates the growing need of logistics and courier services locally. In every market in Asia, we need to learn about the various channels for communicating with our riders and drivers.
Secondly, we are able to leverage the power of our global brand and network to create something that makes every local market feel global and far-reaching.
Lastly, we need to constantly focus on data to better understand the riders and drivers using the platform. We learn from the people using the service every single day.
3. Launching in new markets comes with challenges. What are the main challenges you will need to overcome in Asia?
The biggest challenge is to adapt our global standard to entirely new places, and to find local talent to turn that into a strength. We have already established a presence in 55 cities in Asia Pacific, and we expect more to come.
4. You selected Singapore as a hub to launch in Asia as the first step. Why?
Hong Kong is increasingly the focus for our North Asia operations and Singapore is a hub for Southeast Asia. These have become innovation hubs for the region. Both cities are great at attracting top talent. That said, every single Asia country for Uber also has local talent on the ground in the specific cities we operate in.
5. What is the key learning from your time with Uber since you joined the company?
At Uber, we believe everything is possible. I have learned to think big. If someone told me three years ago that we would now be in 300 cities in the world, I would have found it pretty tough to believe. Our think-big approach has paid off both for Uber riders, who can rely on Uber for a safe, reliable ride in most big cities around the world, as well as drivers on the platform – more than 50,000 jobs are created on the Uber platform every month.