Interview with Head of Uber Vietnam

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Uber Douglas Ma photo

July 19th 2016 – Uber is changing the Vietnam Dream.

Its three-month-old bank program is financing up to 80% of new car purchases for employees – spawning an entirely new generation of Vietnamese auto drivers. The program, which deducts loan payments from driver fares, charges an eight percent interest rate. That is well below 10-12 percent rates offered by general banks.

The ripple effects have been tremendous, as individuals who previously drove for trucking or chauffeur companies are reportedly making five times their old incomes through Uber. The initiative has been especially lucrative in attracting new drivers because most Vietnamese citizens have access to very limited capital. By opening doors to lower-income individuals, Uber has already added four thousand new drivers from Uber in Ho Chi Minh City this year.

On the back of this development, we present our interview with Douglas Ma, who leads Uber’s international expansion division. We discuss Uber’s global involvement, the career opportunities it creates, and its ultimate vision for Vietnam.

When I call Uber in Vietnam, do I have the ability to text/call the driver like I do in the US, get ride cost estimates, and split fares with another Uber rider?  Can I see the car coming on my Uber map?

The great thing about the Uber app is that it is universal and it carries with it all the functions you use and already are familiar with. You have the ability to call and text your driver (international numbers will incur roaming charges), get fare estimates based on pickup and drop-off locations, split the fare with your friends, and watch real-time on a map as your car drive towards you.

What happens to the ride if I leave a hotspot and lose reception?  How does the system know when the ride is over?

If you leave a hotspot area or lose reception, the driver will still head towards your pick up spot but you will not have the ability to track the car on a map in real-time until you go back online. Also, every ride ends after the driver confirms your final destination with you and “ends the trip” on the app.

 How did you get involved in Uber? 

I got involved with Uber out of pure luck. In 2013, I received an email from a friend who was asking if anyone was interested in working at a new startup called Uber. At the time, I didn’t know too much about the company, (they only had services running in the U.S. at the time and I had not been back in quite some time). After touching base with a couple of friends who used Uber in San Francisco and New York, they all had one thing in common…. they all loved the service even though most of them owned cars!  During the interview process, I began to realize that Uber wasn’t your typical company. Everyone was smart, driven, and hungry and I wanted to be a part of this!

What kind of career opportunities are there for an American or a local Vietnamese at Uber Vietnam?

At Uber, we are always looking for the best people. We want people who are analytical, curious, fierce, and passionate about changing the world. For Uber Vietnam, we’re looking for the same people but Vietnamese fluency will also be a requirement. We always want local people to run our businesses and language is a very important part of being local.

If you think you have what it takes to work at Uber, please check our website for more opportunities because we are hiring everywhere!

What cities do you see Uber expanding into in the next several years?

Uber has plans to be everywhere in Vietnam. As long as people need reliable transportation at the push of a button, these are all places we want to be.

During the summer, we did a marketing stunt in Da Nang to see the interest level of Uber. The results were incredible and exciting. Don’t be surprised to see Uber operating in more Vietnamese markets very soon.

What attracted Uber to Vietnam?

Vietnam was an attractive market for us because we understood that the population here is young, tech-savvy, forward-thinking, and growing with spending power. The government here has also been very supportive of new technology and innovation and so for us, it was a very attractive market to launch Uber in. With that foresight, Vietnam has been one of our fastest growing markets because people have adapted quickly to new technology and have made it part of their daily lives. This has been super exciting and we want to do more.

 What are the opportunities and challenges of the operating environment in Vietnam?  What do you see as Uber’s recipe for success in Vietnam?

There are countless opportunities in Vietnam right now especially as Vietnam continues to open up more and more. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was a big milestone and a move in the right direction. Like all markets, the biggest challenge always involves adapting your business to find the right product/market fit. Our success here has been to focus our efforts for our customers. For Uber, we have two. Our customers are our riders and our partner drivers. We focus everything on them by understanding their pain points, providing the best value, the best service, and the best user experience. This focus has really led to our success in Vietnam.

 As a US Uber user, how do I use Uber in Vietnam?  What are the differences US Uber users should be aware of? Credit cards vs cash payment?

The beautiful thing about Uber is that it’s a universal app that you can use in over 360+ different cities around the world. Riders who use the app in the U.S. can use the same app and get the same exact experience they are used to. In Vietnam specifically, some riders will have the option to pay cash if they choose to do so. Riders will know if they have the cash option by simply going to their profile and checking their payment options.

If they see a cash option, it’s available. If they do no, it is not. Paying by credit card is still the default option and still preferred option especially with International travelers who want a hassle-free and seamless experience.

Is Uber available for pickup and drop-off at both the Ho Chi Minh City International Airport (SGN), and Hanoi International Airport (HAN)?

Uber is available for pickup and drop-off at both international airports in HCMC and Hanoi.

How much cheaper is Uber vs. Vietnamese taxi companies?

UberX is priced 35% cheaper than taxis in HCMC and 50% cheaper than taxis in Hanoi and UberBLACK is priced roughly the same as taxis.

How many jobs do you estimate will be created in the next two years for Vietnamese Uber drivers and staff?

In the 1.5 years that Uber has been in Vietnam, we have created over 10K+ jobs and our goal is to create more. We want to give everyone who has a car the opportunity to use their vehicle to make some extra money, empower Vietnamese entrepreneurs and help people get around their cities more easily.

What do you see for Uber Vietnam in 5 years?

The main goal of Uber is to be as reliable as running water and that continues to be our focus for Vietnam. Our average pickup time in Vietnam is under 4 minutes but we want to be better than that.

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