Jason Wincuinas
Aug 14, 2014

Uber counting on WOM for 'UberTaxi' service launch in Hong Kong

HONG KONG - Uber launched its taxi integration in Hong Kong today to expand the brand’s service and consumer reach. Word-of-mouth is its main tool for both marketing and expansion.

Uber believes Hong Kong's taxi drivers will be a good fit
Uber believes Hong Kong's taxi drivers will be a good fit

Sam Gellman, Uber’s Hong Kong GM and head of Asia expansion, says the company’s growth in the city is picking up faster than any other market outside the US. The ride service that you book though a mobile app first launched in Hong Kong with access to vans and high-end sedans, such as Mercedes S Class, on June 18. The taxi offer just started this morning.

“It’s not going to be very long in Hong Kong, before you’ll be able to push a button and get a ride from anywhere,” he said.

The company works with taxis in a handful of cities, Chicago, Tokyo and Sydney among them. There have been conflicts in some markets. Taxi drives in India, for example, have claimed that the way Uber pays its partners constitutes a currency violation. But Gellman emphasises that Hong Kong’s taxi drivers are a particularly good fit with Uber. “Hong Kong is a unique city with its taxi market. Every driver is an entrepreneur.”

That aspect, Gellman claims, is where his firm finds a natural alignment. He wouldn’t give any statistics with regard to how many drivers might be signed up but his optimism was clear. “Any numbers I give now would be out of date in an hour,” he said.

To market the brand, Uber works largely on a positive customer experiences. “We rely on our uses to tell our story for us,” Gellman explained, with a few creative tactics thrown in to stir up talk. When the service launched in Hong Kong, you could order an ice cream delivery (full disclosure we did enjoy that here in the Campaign office). And in Shanghai around Chinese New Year you could order a lion dance through the Uber app to appear wherever you were in the city, which Gellman says drew crowds of hundreds and was a fun and localized way to introduce the brand to China.

Uber is available in about 25 cities across Asia currently and the company is pushing aggressively into China. A recruitment email chain Campaign discovered laid out plans for Wuhan, Hangzhou and Chengdu among many others.

Asked whether there were any plans to add helicopter service like one famously offered in New York to get to the Hamptons, Gellman said, “everything is on the table.

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