Many would think it crazy to open a business during Hong Kong's 2003 Sars pandemic, but not Ricky Chu, group managing director of mobile marketing firm Gravitas. Taking advantage of falling office rents and low salaries, Chu successfully built his two-man band into a booming business of 40 employees that makes millions of Hong Kong dollars annually.
How has your educational background and work experience helped you develop your business?
I graduated from Hong Kong Baptist College (now Baptist University) with a graduate diploma in China marketing and e-business. After graduating, I began work, marketing for telecom companies. I learned a lot about the products and services, which benefited me greatly.
What inspired you to open your own company?
In 2003, at the age of 30, I was facing a career crisis. I was told that the telecoms department where I worked was going to fold within a few months. At the time, the internet was beginning to take off, but going online with a mobile phone was not at all popular. I could see the huge potential and so set up a company with my brother.
How has your company developed?
When we first began, we were making use of mobile phones as platforms for promotions via text messaging and quick response codes (QR code) - both low-budget marketing strategies. In our early days, we did around a million Hong Kong dollars of business a year. As of 2008, we have recorded 100 per cent revenue growth every year.
What was the turning point?
The introduction of iPhones led to our boom. [Apple chairman and former CEO] Steve Jobs forever changed the market with the apps store concept. Today, developers of software or games no longer have to depend on telecoms companies to release their products. With the apps store, anyone can share their work. The maturation of going online and using mobile phones and the introduction of tablet computers have further boosted our business.
How do you stand out from competitors?
The apps store concept has empowered many to design apps, making the apps design business ultra-competitive. We do help clients design apps, but that is only a small part of our business. The core is to provide clients with one-stop promotion strategies and advertising services using the mobile media and skills.
What is your motto?
Do long-term planning and be relentless. The first three years of a new business are the toughest. Income is unsteady and many give up to return to being an employee. Sometimes one has to wait for the opportunity to come. Stay on guard.
Set a goal, pursue it step by step and you will get there. In life, there are no short cuts. People don't become successful overnight.
What are your plans?
We plan to expand our business beyond Hong Kong. Branches will open in Singapore and Malaysia in the next few years. I also hope that Gravitas will be the mobile marketing industry's leading company by 2013.
What is your company's vision?
I founded Mobile Friday in 2008. Since then, it has been held more than 30 times, acting as a platform to share the latest mobile marketing trends and strategies, with more than 1,000 marketers from various industries. I hope that through these meetings, I can let more marketers know about the benefits of mobile marketing.
As a boss who employs mostly post-'80s staff, what comments do you have about them?
My staff are capable and responsible high achievers. I think society and the media are too tough on them.