Two years ago in 2015, Nida and Danish – who were a newly married couple at the time – were looking for a place to rent in Islamabad where Danish works as a banker. “We had exhausted ourselves in finding a good place; it was a routine to wake up each day and visit estate agents around the city– that was our honeymoon outing,” says Nida with a chuckle.
Nida and her husband spent almost two months looking for a place where they could settle in but the end result was zero. Sometimes they liked the apartment but the rent was too high, at other times the house and the rent both made them disappointed. It was then a colleague in Danish’s office told him of OLX and the couple turned their heads towards the online classified portal launched in 2012 in Pakistan.
“Of course we knew about OLX, the “sab bech dey” tagline was very familiar for us but we did not know we could actually depend on an online site for this task,” said Nida. However, after spending a few days surfing through the site, the couple found a place they could easily call their ‘dream house’.
“We went to check the house in Chaklala Scheme 3 and liked it in the first glimpse,” says Nida of the house she and Danish now live in. The couple resides in a two bedroom portion with attached bathrooms, drawing room, store room, laundry area and a lounge on ground floor for a monthly rent of Rs18,000 (approximately $172).
“We really had a good experience and now I tell my friends too about OLX if they are looking for rental places or cars etc,” said Nida.
Nida and Danish are among the millions of users of OLX who motivated the global company to set up its office in Pakistan last year – until then OLX Pakistan was operated out of Dubai. Profit sat down with General Manager OLX Pakistan, Bilal Bajwa to pen down the company’s five-year experience in the country that has now become one of the exponentially growing markets in the South Asian region.
Found in Argentina in 2006, OLX is owned by Naspers – an over $60 billion multinational internet and media group. Currently operating in over 40 countries with a leadership position in 30, OLX Pakistan launched its operations in 2012 – since then the country has seen a tremendous growth in internet user base thus OLX users grew to a significant number too.
“We have 500,000 users daily and 5 million users monthly,” said Bajwa of OLX’s growing customer base. Every day as many as 25,000 ads are posted on OLX and according to the GM, 80% of the listers receive a response from their potential buyers within a week.
Saud Gora, a 19-year-old medical student in Faisalabad, vouched for OLX’s rapid response time by his own experience. “I had to sell my laptop and after waiting for multiple weeks on other classified mediums, I tried to give a shot to OLX. I put up an ad and within a few days I found a buyer who was willing to pay the price I had quoted,” said Gora.
Such experiences with the online portal have given confidence to the Pakistani masses who have recently gotten accustomed to the online shopping experience and OLX has rapidly managed to secure the position of number one classified website in the country.
The reasons behind achieving number one position are too many, however, for Bajwa the main reason is the company’s focus on retention of existing customers. “We not only look at how many times a customer comes back, we look more on the activity as how many times you come back and post another ad,” said the GM about the strategy which has made OLX Pakistan one of the highest in terms of retention in South Asia.
Not only this but the company is also focusing on making OLX Pakistan more compatible to the needs of the local population. For this reason, categories such as business and agriculture, livestock, pets, tractors, and boats (for Karachi only) have been added to the website and app in the recent months. The idea behind such initiatives is to make OLX Pakistani’s go to website for buying and selling of goods.
Although, the most sought after category for the classified portal is of mobile phones, these new categories – though limited to a small portion – are expected to increase the coverage for the company.
However, increasing customer base is not the core focus of the OLX Pakistan team. Head of Media and Customer Operations at OLX, Muhammad Ammar Hassan in the conversation with Profit said, “A lot of people complaint us regarding the quality of the listings (ads), so we took a really strong drive to clean the website and stop bad quality listings and reject a lot of listings.”
He added that although in essence OLX Pakistan was letting lesser number of people to post an ad – in other words: reducing daily listings – but the company was focusing on improving liquidity which is now growing by leaps and bounds. Liquidity is something both Bajwa and Hassan consider important for the growth.
“Liquidity is that when you’re growing 100 percent year on year [you measure] are the new users that are coming in are they successful? Or the people, who are listing, are they successful? Because that tells you whether you’ll grow next year or not,” Bajwa explained the key metric of success that the company is deeply looking into.
The improvement of in quality of the content is indirectly helping the company to spread its wings further in the 200 million people of Pakistan and as many as 2.5 million downloads of OLX app were made in last six months alone.
Hassan said, “We do not only care about doubling our numbers, ‘user journey’ holds greater importance.” User journey as he explained is the scenario where the team looks into how a user’s one time experience led him to another. “If somebody posted an ad in cars, are they coming back for mobile?” said Hassan of the user journey that the company emphasizes on.
Ifrah Amjad, seems to be a direct beneficiary of the improvement in content on the website. Amjad’s family recently decided to buy a car and although they knew about OLX the family had concerns regarding the reliability of the product and the seller.
“We decided to check the car for ourselves and incidentally we got to know that the seller was in our neighbourhood too. We saw it and it was exactly as it was described in the ad; we bought it,” Amjad, who now owns a Toyota Passo – bought from OLX – recalled her experience after which she’s a satisfied customer who plans to go back again.
Albeit OLX’s successful journey so far, the company understands that Pakistan is far behind in the global standing of the company; however, the potential seems to be getting stronger with every passing day and OLX intends to remain on top of the head of every classified user. As of right now, the company holds 92 percent lead in ‘top of the head market leadership’ – a number far greater than its competitors.
On the conventional classified portals front – which the company does not seem to be concerned about – the team believes that with the growth of internet penetration and awareness more and more people will eventually join the online portal for three basic reasons, ‘it’s simple, it’s easy and it’s fast.”