In Conversation with OLX Country Head, Amarjit Batra on user behaviour, going mobile and local language support
OLX.in is an Indian online classified site which serves as a platform to connect buyers and sellers who wish to buy, sell, exchange or trade used goods and services, by posting a Free Ad on the website. People could use this classifieds platform to search for any product that they want to buy directly from individuals. OLX has been immensely successful over the years and has pioneered the concept of C2C selling in India by introducing the concept of buying and selling of second hand and preowned goods directly between individuals. OLX is an ad-supported model where they run sponsored links on the listing pages.
In May 2011, Olx.in had around 10 million page views, while in November 2012 the number jumped to 92 million page views per month. There have been multiple reason why this has been possible and here, we get in touch with Amarjit Batra, the Country Head of OLX to learn more.
YS: Tell us a bit about OLX. How big is the team and how has the growth curve been?
AB: OLX.in went live in end 2006, and the initial years were spent on strenghtening the platform and organic user growth. We only started offlline marketing in May 2011. This was followed by a lot of local advertising through Radio and other local media. There has been no looking back after the launch of the TV campaign and the increased activity and engagement from users in the last couple of months is really exciting to see. According to the annual data available from Comscore from October 2011, OLX shows steady growth in PVs over the past 18 months. In May 2011, Olx.in had around 10 million page views, while in November 2012 the number jumped to 92 million page views per month which is a growth of more than 900% in a short time span!
We will always have a lean operation and our current team is about 25 people in India who are well supported by our global teams. We are looking to strengthen the team further next year.
AB: We are seeing a massive trend from people who were earlier reluctant to sell their second hand things to come and use OLX to convert it into cash. Also, buying of second hand goods that was earlier limited to cars and houses, is now spread to some many categories like household stuff, and personal items like mobiles, computers, books, toys, and unused gifts. The reluctance to sell as well as buy seems to have disappeared in the last 12 months.
In the last year, OLX.in has seen maximum growth in the ‘For Sale’ category featuring ads for used furniture, mobile phones, cameras and other household stuff. We also witness a higher engagement from males in categories like Cars and Bikes, Mobile phones and Jobs while Jewelry, Household furniture and Baby products are more female centric subcategories. One of the unique trends we have seen is that the family is now involved in the buying and selling process on OLX and it’s not an individual’s decision. Like the wife and kids may prod the husband to sell, or the son may tell his father to sell etc.
With the rising personal disposable incomes and new technology being developed sooner than usual, shopping styles are also undergoing a major transition where people no more want to hold onto a product till it breaks down. Aspirations to replace the old or obsolete product with a new one within a short span of time are growing, which in turn shortens the product cycle. Regular purchase and sale of relatively new Electronic goods, Cameras, Mobiles, TV, Furniture, etc are some of the noticeable trends we witness on the site today.
We also see a lot of people who aspire for high end products like top end smart phones, cars and bikes etc. now using OLX to satisfy their needs to find great deals on second hand stuff from actual users.
YS: When did you plan to go mobile? How much of your traffic comes from mobile?
AB: We are already there in the mobile space since last 3 years via Apps for all smartphones platforms – IOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, Blackberry and Symbian. We also have a wep app that is very popular among feature phone users. For us, mobile traffic has grown exponentially through this year and we have roughly 25% of our total traffic now coming through mobile and tablet devices.
YS: Tell us more about the mobile site. What was the thought process?
AB: Key things that we keep in mind when designing a mobile site are simplicity of navigation, design to aid visibility and tuned performance for speed on wireless networks. Our belief is that it is easier to use a classifieds service from a mobile than a desktop PC. If you are a consumer wishing to sell, you just click a picture of the product you wish to sell through the OLX app, add a brief description and expected price, share your preferred contact info and you are ready with your listing. No need to transfer images from your camera or mobile to your PC or enter your location coordinates. As a buyer, one can figure out the items available for sale nearby through the maps integration within the OLX app, or search a product you wish to buy in your locality, and simply click-call the person who has posted an item of interest through the mobile. The ease of using the OLXfrom mobile makes mobile classifieds a great opportunity to reach out to those users in India who do not have access to PC’s.
YS: How has regional language support helped?
AB:Localization of OLX.in in different languages like Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Marathi allow users to connect locally and consume content in their native language. It is challenging to access customers by simply providing a single medium or a single language. This was initially being done through print, but the future is bright for Internet and mobile. Similarly, English readership is limited in our country and to fully cover the market, local language options would become increasingly important.
YS: Geographically, how is the traffic distribution?
AB: Overall, over 70% of the total traffic is being generated from the Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities. The states of Delhi, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are important with over 60% of the 40 lac+ listings in these states. However, even for the Tier 3 cities like Lucknow, Vijaywada, Bhubaneshwar, etc we are noticing increase in the internet activity and similar engagements with people posting ads majorly for selling their Mobiles like I-phones, Laptops and Cars and Bikes.
YS: To what extent does OLX indulge in curation?
AB: On OLX.in, it’s the users themselves who post ads on their own. We educate users to post good quality ads with photos and in our category we have the best quality of ads.
We have manual and automatic interventions and tools to ensure that the content on the site is moderated and any spammy, inappropriate or duplicated ads are deleted. Our users also have an option to flag ads that they see as inappropriate or have concern with, which we investigate and remove if found true.
Unlike other companies in this field, we do not post ads for users and neither do we alter their ads. We encourage users to post ads on their own.
YS: What is the vision for OLX?
AB: Our vision is to be the most popular and most preferred destination for buying and selling among invividuals in India where users buy, sell, trade and rent easily, effortlessly. For the Indian consumers, we are aleady the largest and most popular C2C marketplace with presence in 500+ cities in India. We intend to strengthen our position by continuing to delight our users with innovative offerings and strong execution and offer the best user experience on web and mobile.
We are a very focussed company and unlike other players in this space, we will continue to stay focussed on our core offerings and not diversify in lead generation, B2B and bulk listings, yellow pages etc.