As technology use has proliferated among Cambodians, businesses have sometimes struggled to keep up. The Ride-hailing app Uber announced a new general manager in Cambodia on Friday, appointing Pascal Ly as the company’s country representative. Ly sat down with The Post’s Robin Spiess to discuss how he will steer Uber through Cambodia’s increasingly crowded ride-hailing market.
Can you provide me a basic outline of how Uber has performed in Phnom Penh since its September 2017 launch?
It’s been going good, because we are seeing a trend going in the right direction, in terms of numbers of drivers joining our platform and in terms of riders using our services week after week. Generally, feedback is very positive. Of course there are some areas we need to fix, but that is an ongoing process.
What are Uber’s expansion plans in Cambodia?
So in terms of expansion, my priority is to ensure we are doing the right thing for the city and the users. Expansion will come naturally as we mature – we are only a few months old in this market, so we need to go step-by-step to ensure we are doing this right. I am ensuring that I am giving the right user experience for drivers and the riders, and in the future we will use this information to decide if we want to scale and expand. Expansion to other cities is in the pipeline. But if we are not ready or it doesn’t make sense, we are not in the mindset of racing and trying to be everywhere at all costs.
Who are your main competitors in this market?
I would say all of them. We’ve got local players who have been here for a while, and who have initiated the habits for users to understand what ride-hailing applications are. Then we have the international groups coming in as well, trying to explore the market. In my opinion, we are in an early stage in the Cambodian market and all of our competitors are equally important to me in that respect.
Do you see a strong need for car-hailing services in Phnom Penh?
If you don’t use any apps, you can’t find any taxis on the road to hail them easily. When you hail a tuk-tuk, you have to negotiate prices with them, and that is very tiring. With that in mind, local ride-hailing apps make sense for the Cambodian market. The initial phase of Uber testing the market here was successful, so there’s enough demand to have a solid market here in Phnom Penh.
How have your discussions with the government progressed?
The government has responded positively to our discussions, so our operations are quite smooth. There is no tension. It’s an ongoing conversation we keep having with them to ensure they know what’s going on. We need to closely work with them to ensure everything goes well.
International competitor Grab has just entered the market last month – how is Uber responding?
People were already using local applications when Uber entered here. The fact that another international player is coming in just shows me we are exactly where we need to be. Competition is good, because it helps us to flesh out the ride-hailing market.
How does Uber incentivise drivers to join?
We announced we were here and asked people to come to us to sign up as drivers. There’s a lot of word-of-mouth, too, because when drivers have a good experience with us they are interested in telling their friends to join. It’s a snowball effect. A majority of our drivers are also taxi drivers, so the fact we’re able to give them more opportunities to work gives them the chance to earn a higher income. Drivers now have more flexible revenues, and it gives them a sense of liberty and the feeling of being self-employed.
What is Uber’s stance on encouraging cashless payments?
I think that’s definitely the direction to go. Here, Uber has introduced cash payment, because Cambodia is a cash-using country. My view is that we need to continue working on financial inclusion in this country. There are so many different players with e-wallets in this market now, and I am in discussion with all of them so I can know their plans and what they have in the pipeline in order to monitor the market.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.