Q&A: Country Manager, OLX Pakistan on The Conception & Growth of OLX in Pakistan

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As originally published in Synergyzer Issue 2 – Annual 2017 – ‘Abracadabra’

Bilal OLX
Bilal Bajwa, Country Manager, OLX Pakistan

What is the background behind the conception of OLX?

OLX was founded in Argentina in 2006. In 2010 it was acquired by Naspers, a global internet and entertainment group and one of the largest technology investors in the world. In March 2012, OLX started building its brand and launched its technology platform. The next year, the first OLX TVC was launched in Pakistan. In August 2013, OLX Pakistan hired its first employee and in Sep 2014 a new OLX app was introduced for the Pakistani community. Keeping in mind the safety and security of its users, OLX launched user verification through one time password (OTP) in October 2015.

I got appointed the Country Manager in April 2016 as the company started to expand its on-ground operations. In September 2016, our Customer Services operations were established in Karachi, Pakistan with 25 agents, who are designated to improve user experience of the platform. OLX Pakistan set up its first office in Lahore in November 2016 following which; the Lahore team has grown to 12 individuals.

How is OLX Pakistan structured for operations?

OLX Pakistan is run by a team of around 50 people working from Dubai, Karachi, and Lahore. Most of our operations are run out of Pakistan, but we leverage our global teams for some central services.

How is OLX positioned?

OLX is the only horizontal classifieds website in the country, meaning it deals in a wide range of product categories. It is also the #1 marketplace and #1 app in shopping category with 500,000 people using the platform daily. Our scale allows us to serve the entire Pakistan effectively and it greatly improves the response rates for ads posted on our platform.

Who is a typical OLX user?

A typical OLX user is a male aged between 18 to 35 years. Having said that it varies by category.  We serve all segments of the Pakistani society and we see this in our data and user profiles.

Why do you prefer advertising heavily on TV versus advertising on social media?

Actually, we do both. OLX Pakistan Facebook page has 3 million users, which is the largest for any technology brand and also bigger than most successful brands. However, since ours is a national platform, we also leverage TV heavily.

 

“Compared to when we started in 2013, we have 200% growth in ads and 160% growth in sellers.”

 

How does OLX earn?

Initially, we were earning through advertising which is quite effective due to traffic. Just to provide an idea of our scale, we have over 20 million pageviews per day.

Going forward, we are introducing a new service called featured ads for our users, which will allow them to place premium ads and get seven times faster response. This will be an additional source of revenue for us.

How much traffic does OLX generate in Pakistan?

The OLX app continues to be the number one classifieds app in Pakistan with 9000 plus app downloads daily. Since March 2017; OLX is receiving daily traffic of 500,000 plus buyers and sellers creating 20 million page views every day, 26,000 plus new ads and 17,000 plus unique sellers. Compared to when we started in 2013, this is 200% growth in ads and 160% growth in sellers.

Also, people from over 118 cities in Pakistan use OLX and over 50,000 conversations take place between buyers and sellers every day. Today, an ad is posted on OLX every three seconds and 70% of these ads are able to find a buyer within a week.

What is OLX doing to ensure quality listings and providing its users with a safe and secure environment?

OLX is a platform which provides buyers and sellers a contact point. Despite that, we are always on patrol and are looking for any fraudulent, abusive or unethical advertisements.

A dedicated team of dozens of professionals constantly keep an eye on advertisements at all hours of the day. To ensure the validity of mobile numbers used to post ads, we enforce OTP mobile verification on all such users.

Apart from in-house efforts to make the platform safe, OLX also educates users on how to conduct transactions in a safe and secure manner. We keep communicating to our users to not to go to unsafe areas to lock a deal and we recommend users to use online banking, ATM payments for making and receiving payments and to avoid using cash, particularly if the amount is big.

OLX is operational in more than 45 countries. How do users in Pakistan benefit from OLX being global?

We have global talent working for product improvement and for ensuring a seamless user experience on our app. A global presence also helps us to learn from different markets around the world to see what works best for users in which market. For example, we recently launched an agriculture category based on user requests in Pakistan and learnings from a similar launch in Kenya, which is also an agriculture driven marketplace.