How to take over the 3100 Cr Indian online classifieds market Quikr style

Online classifieds may appear as digital replication of old newspaper classifieds, but in reality, it is much more than that. Though some of the established international players are struggling today, our own Indian classifieds product, Quikr, has a different story to share.

How did Quikr make it so quick?

After spending close to a decade in the US, Pranay Chulet came back to India to lead Quikr. He had previously worked in a variety of roles in Walker Digital, Pricewater House Coopers and Booz Allen Hamilton. An alumnus of IIT Delhi and IIM Calcutta, Pranay teamed up with his former colleague at eBay Jiby Thomas to start Quikr.

He prefers Quikr being called a ‘nursery of Indian e-commerce’ instead of calling it an online classified website.

Back in the US, he was very fascinated with the Craigslist phenomenon and its growing impact. He firmly believed back then that if Craigslist could come to dominate local commerce in the US where most people have credit cards and can directly buy things online, there is no reason why a platform like Quikr wouldn’t be able to dominate local commerce in India where most people don’t have credit cards.

Many marketplaces have seeded in the US successfully but India is a very different market. Indians are value conscious and sensitive to price.  He believes that consumer products need to understand the real reasons ‘why a consumer would use the product’. These reasons would help build strategies to retain users and maintain a good user experience. He credits local marketplace focus as an important factor in  Quikr’s success.

He adds, “Unlike the US, Indians weren’t psychologically ready for classifieds going online back in 2009. Even today, transactions happen offline. The market is slowly reframing.

Over the years, Quikr has a large-scale cross-category classifieds business with over 30 million consumers and small businesses across 940 cities using it every month.These consumers are using Quikr to sell, buy, rent or find products and services in a variety of categories such as electronics and household goods, real estate, cars, bikes, jobs and services.

Retaining the simplicity of the website and improving user experience as the business grows is a challenge most startups face. However, it also presents an opportunity to create innovative solutions that can make life easier for Quikr users through interesting features and applications that don’t compromise the simplicity of usage.

Expanding the market by reaching out to those who are not using digital classifieds today and proving to them the value of this medium is a challenge he wants to overcome in the near future. He believes that even though growth is very important for startups, the focus should always be on user experience.

At Quikr, there is a 100-member team that curates the quality of listings daily. On an average, 40% of the listings are deleted to maintain the quality of listings.

With the surge in Internet and mobile user-base, the Indian online classified market is expected to grow to INR 31 billion by 2016. The growth potential in real estate, cars and general segments is huge but the supply isn’t adequate to meet this large demand.

It is interesting to note that the online classified industry in India has grown through vertical sites in different segments unlike the US where the biggest classifieds site is Craigslist, a horizontal player.

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‘Jab we met’

Matrix_Primary_LogoAlong with Matrix Partners India, Kinnevik, Omidyar Network, Nokia Growth Partners, Norwest Venture Partners, Warburg Pincus and eBay Inc have invested in Quikr more than $150 million.

This Quikr-Matrix deal is a good case study for those who are curious on ‘how investors can be helpful to scale the product in the right direction’.

Avnish Bajaj, Co-founder and Managing Director, Matrix Partners India, has previous experience in starting an online marketplace with Baazee.com. Baazee.com was acquired by eBay. Avnish is one of the early investors in Quikr. With a previous online marketplace experience, he has been sharing his real life learning’s with Pranay, which have helped Quikr in its journey.

Avnish fondly shared his early days when his team members would go and manually click pictures and get them listed on the website. “Back then maintaining the supply-demand balance was very difficult. Today, consumers are searching for classifieds online and also listing them – a far cry from the days in 2006,” says Pranay.

If your investor has previous experience in the same domain, he is a great asset to the team. He will guide you in difficult times and also value the tough decisions which you might want to take,” he adds.

In a recent conversation with Avnish and Pranay at Matrix Partner’s Fireside Chat organized by YourStory, one could sense the mutual respect they shared. It reminds us of the famous quote: ‘You cannot demand respect, you have to earn it.’

Both stressed the point that data can help take difficult decisions in boardrooms. Especially for consumer products like marketplaces, it’s very important for teams to concentrate and track their data to learn more about their users.

Mobile is the way to go

There has been a major shift in the way Internet is consumed in India over the past few years. India is witnessing a spike in Internet consumption over mobile devices. It is expected that Internet in India will touch 300 million in the next three years with roughly half of the new additions being mobile-only users.

More than 50% of Quikr’s transactions happen on mobiles daily, which is a huge  number. When a company focuses on mobile usage in their ads, it shows how much they value mobile users.

Avnish further stressed that the next wave in consumer products is around localization and multi-lingual support for digital content. He says, “India is reaching a saturation point vis-a-vis English speaking Internet users.” The number of people who understand English won’t increase at the same rate as mobile penetration in India.

Quikr team plans to work on the user experience further to make the listing process simpler and quicker. “Ideally, any listing should get a response in 5 mins after posting” claims Pranay.

Quikr has had a phenomenal run over the years and keeps innovating to get more eyeballs with its recent launch of the ‘Maximum Selling Price’ campaign.

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What worked for Quikr?

Localization –One of the critical reasons why international classifieds do not work globally is lack of local reach. Quikr stands apart from its other competitors because of its constant focus on localization. You won’t think of buying a product listed on classifieds if it’s from a user in the neighbouring city. But if it was from someone in your own neighbourhood, you won’t hesitate to give it a try. Though the world is becoming a global village, people’s expectations of seeking products locally are increasing. It is essential for marketplaces to focus on creating critical mass in one specific segment of the customer base.

Quality – In its initial days, Quikr didn’t focus much on metrics. Their team believed in providing good user experience and user retention. In order to have quality listings, they curated the listings on the website periodically. This is a good example of how consumer product startups can focus on improving the product experience for consumers and not have a singular focus on ‘growth metrics’. While working on the quality, this team used data to guide them in building strategies and evolving successful campaigns.

Quikr’s success story underlines the fact that Indian startups can attain success with focus on quality and user experience over growth metrics.

Did you try selling something on Quikr through your mobile? Share your experiences with us.


Subodh Kolhe