In an exclusive interview to Thinking Aloud, Amarjit Singh Batra, CEO, OLX.in talks about how OLX has been able to create a niche in the C2C market and why people prefer OLX as their preferred destination for buying and selling
TA: Localization and Quality are a couple of pivotal things in terms of Classifieds. What has worked in favor of OLX so far?
ASB: What has worked most for OLX is fulfilling our brand promise to our users by providing them with successful selling and buying experiences day in and day out. People are able to sell within hours, sometimes even minutes on OLX. The kind of word-of-mouth this has generated for us is stupendous. This has enabled us to stand for the category itself today. OLX and selling have become synonymous, and for us there can be no greater indicator of success than this.
Relentless focus on consumer-to-consumer (C2C) classifieds was a difficult path to take, but has helped establish OLX as the market leader. Quality has always been our USP. This is why 100 percent of the Ad listing content on OLX is user-generated, and we neither call users to use OLX nor post Ads on their behalf.
Although, we are present in 40 countries, in India, we have built OLX as a local brand, and crafted a local tagline – ‘Bech De’. We took localization a step further when we became the first company in our space to create customized regional communication for different parts of the country. So instead of ‘Bech De’ we have ‘Vithudunga’ in Tamil, ‘Ameyandi’ in Telugu, and ‘Maari Bidi’ in Kannada.
TA: Mobile is an ideal way to make sure that every listing is getting response in a quicker time. Do you think multilingual support along with new innovation for the mobile platform held the key to success?
ASB: Mobile gives ease of access, but it is the simplicity of the platform that increases its usage and popularity. The new-to-net population is consuming Internet for the first time on the mobile, and this makes it imperative to have an uncomplicated platform. This is the reason, more than anything else, we have worked hard on building a user-friendly App. To us, it does not make sense to keep introducing new features, if they are not catering to existing user needs. Today, we are the number one classifieds App in the country (on Google Playstore) with 85 percent of our traffic coming from mobile. We are a platform built on user-generated content (UGC). Our research in this space has shown that UGC content hasn’t picked up in a big way for mobile Apps yet, especially for the classifieds. We have our platform available in different languages, and when the time is ripe, we will introduce multilingual content for the App as well.
TA: Can you share any new product innovations in the pipeline that are poised to conquer the US$31 billion Indian Classifieds Market?
ASB: For our users, OLX in itself is a product innovation. A few years ago selling and buying used household items was unheard of; that two individuals could carry out a transaction without help from middlemen was nearly impossible. Facilitating this transaction between individual buyers and sellers is our biggest innovation.
Innovation has to be tied to market needs. The timing needs to be right. This is why, keeping in mind our leadership in the used car space, earlier this year OLX took the lead in offering sellers and buyers of used cars the benefit of conducting reliable and responsible transactions by tying up with a leading auto inspection platform. Soon after that we also introduced a chat feature, which helps buyers connect instantly with the sellers of products they are interested in buying.
Going forward too, we will continue to introduce timely innovations that enhance the C2C experience, and benefit the industry for the long term.
TA: It’s been said that used mobile phones and cars are selling like hot cakes in the C2C Market. What are the other products that are garnering maximum postings?
ASB: Used mobile phones and cars and motorcycles certainly take up a large chunk of the transactions and listings as both are extremely aspirational categories. Everyone has a mobile phone these days and this is fastest moving category on OLX. Cars generate the maximum traffic for OLX, making us the biggest marketplace for used cars in the country. But OLX is also the largest marketplace in India for used household items, furniture, baby products, home electronics, sports equipment, musical instruments and antiques and collectibles. The OLX Consumer Research on Used Goods and Selling Trends (CRUST) survey has shown that getting the brand of one’s preference at an affordable price is among the top triggers for buying used goods. Buying and selling of used microwaves, air conditioners, strollers, sofas, and the likes was unheard of a few years ago. OLX has made this possible for the first time. One of the key benefits of using OLX is that it allows middlemen-free transactions, and this has prompted people to trade things they didn’t even imagine buying and selling until recently.
TA: Recently, Quikr raised $150 million & they are looking to go App only. What has been the recent developments on the part of OLX to sync in tandem with the competitors?
ASB: A Morgan Stanley Report dated January 22, 2015, called ‘Winning India’ has valued OLX India at US$3.8 billion. This is about 4 times the valuation of others in our space. But we don’t believe in valuation as being either the only or the most formidable indicator of competitive success. We have built the largest marketplace for used goods in India, and have 70 percent unique content on our platform, which implies that 70 percent of the content is exclusively available on OLX and no other platform. We have 85 percent market share of the consumer-to-consumer (C2C) trade in the country, and we have reached this stage only because we decided to take the difficult path. At a time when everyone was focussing on vertical classifieds, and there were no successful examples of horizontal online classifieds in India, we decided to focus primarily on C2C. As creators and builders of C2C classifieds in India, we eliminated competition a long time ago. We are fortunate that we are backed by a strategic partner like Naspers. We have a strong playbook to refer to, and are doing the right things to grow the business.
TA: Lastly, can you provide some numbers that indicate OLX has made it big in the online classified space?
ASB: OLX gets more than 2.5 billion page-views a month (August 2015). Our brand awareness is more than five times that of our closest competition (as of August 9th-15th, 2015). In cars, which is our biggest category from the perspective of traffic, we have a brand awareness that is more than six times anyone else in the industry (as of August 9th-15th, 2015). OLX is also the only classifieds player to be among the top ten searched terms in India for both 2013 and 2014 according to Google Zeitgeist, coming in at number 8 in the latter year. An independent research-based report by leading global financial firm Morgan Stanley published on February 5th, 2015 states that, “OLX is a market leader within C2C eCommerce by a wide margin.” The report titled ‘India Internet and eCommerce Asia Insight: Decoding What India Does on the Internet’ says that the majority of users on OLX have had an “excellent” user experience. (Report attached).
OLX has also won prestigious industry awards and accolades such as Pitch Top 50 Brands in India, 2014 and 2015, the most fifth trusted online brand by Trust Research Advisory’s Brand Trust Report 2014 and 2015, #2 ecommerce website in India by Surewaves Buzziest Brands 2014, and two Effie awards in 2015, and two Abby awards in 2015 for its different campaigns.
Google Trends Graph 1: Classifieds industry comparison Aug 2015 (Past 1 Year, All Categories) More than 5 times bigger
Google Trends Graph 2: Industry comparison in used cars category Aug 2015 (Past 1 year, Auto and Vehicles Category) More than 6 times bigger at least