August 13, 2009

Print classifieds will eventually die - Amarjit Batra, OLX India

Online classifieds has been a growing business and is expected to grow 100% YOY. Be it marriage, Real Estate etc, all of use either of these services in day to day life. In this article, we speak to Amarjit Batra, Country manager of OLX,India which is 100% FREE classifieds site.

The interview is divided into two parts, with this one focusing on OLX, Online Classifieds, Marketing etc.

Before starting off, can you give a small pitch about yourself & OLX ?
OLX is a next generation classifieds site present in 90 countries and 39 languages. We are present in India on web as well as mobile There is an option to use OLX India site in English as well as Hindi. We are live in most Indian cities and we already have users from 900+ cities in India. OLX is 100% free to search, list and transact. We have all the key classifieds categories like Jobs, Real Estate, Cars, For Sale, Matrimonial, Services, Education and Community. OLX has integrated many Web2.0 features to the product and we aspire to be good in every vertical.

I have been in the internet space in India for the last nine years and am a strong believer in the online marketplace model. India is an important market for OLX, and I hope that we can make a difference to the lives of the Indian populace through our Free Classifieds site. I am delighted to be a part of the OLX Global Classifieds team and join them in this exciting journey.

How big is the estimated classifieds market in India ?
India is young classifieds market, but there is a lot of potential. As per estimates, the size of the online market is Rs. 800 to 900 crores.

How different is OLX from other competitors like Sulekha, Sify Classifieds etc.
First of all, we are a free site. Yes 100% free! And we want to keep our core site free forever. Our major difference with vertical category sites is that we are present in many categories- Jobs, Real Estate, Vehicles, Matrimonial [only in India], For Sale, Services, Classes, and Community.

Being a local site, we are today present in all major cities in India, whereas the rest of the sites are focusing on few cities only. The other key differentiating factor is a user friendly mobile version of the site on which one can do everything that can be done on the web version. We are also present in other languages like Hindi that gives us a wider reach.

Being a Web2.0 product, users can easily design rich colorful listings with pictures and videos and display their listings on their social networking profile [Facebook, Myspace etc... ]

Unlike others, we are a global classifieds site network with a local presence in India. Being present in 90 countries and 39 languages gives us an international reach and we do continuous improvements on our product and features.

OLX has presence in many countries, how different is the Indian market from market in US/elsewhere ?
Indian online classifieds market is quite different from US, primarily in two ways.
  • Online classifieds in India have grown through vertical sites in jobs, real estate and matrimonial unlike US where the biggest classifieds site is Craigslist, a horizontal site.
  • US online market has been the harbinger to the shift from print classifieds to online classifieds and it’s been happening in huge way recently with many print dailies getting out of business. Contrarily to the US and Western Europe, the newspapers in India are still growing in circulation. As a result the print classifieds is also growing.
The online classifieds industry will eventually cross the print classifieds through the sheer reach, flexibility, cost effectiveness and ease of use for both advertisers and searchers, but it will take some time.

India is difficult to cover by a single medium or a single language. It was print earlier, but Internet has shown a good growth recently and mobile is going to become important in the future. Similarly, English readership is limited in our country and to fully cover the market, local language options would become increasingly important.

You have worked with EBay(India) & other B2B,B2C based companies ..What changes have you seen in the market since that time ?
Internet has changed the way we search and buy products and services. The online transactions in India might not be huge today, but the search starts on the internet for a lot of us. With Mobile internet gaining popularity a lot more people will exposed to Internet.

In the last few years, the online classifieds market has evolved in many ways. I have seen the following trends in the Indian market:
  • Increased awareness and preference for online classifieds. There has been a increased awareness among the internet users now, whereas earlier, a lot of time and effort was being spent by online classifieds players in educating consumers and businesses on the benefits of using classifieds.
  • Rise of the Horizontal Classifieds Sites. The market is moving from vertical category sites to horizontal category sites. Even the players who were earlier in one category have launched other verticals or their own horizontal sites
  • New categories becoming relevant online. Jobs, Real Estate and Matrimonial have been the top draw categories and continue to remain so, but there are other categories like Vehicles (Auto), For Sale (e commerce categories), Services and Classes (Education) that are also driving considerable interest among consumers.
  • C2C users now have a platform to trade. Online classifieds has been a shot in the arm for C2C transactions in India and filled a huge gap. If you look at US also, C2C was earlier captured by eBay but a lot of it has now shifted to Craigslist. If an individual is looking to sell his car, give his flat for rent or look for paying guest, sell old furniture, offer tutoring services etc, online classifieds is now a preferred option to advertise.
  • Boon for SME’s. As a country, India is on a growth path and the large numbers of micro and small entrepreneurs starting their businesses or facing the onslaught from competition are increasingly looking at advertising options that are free or low cost. Online classifieds provide them with a local as well as a national reach and it’s free.
  • Internet is going local. Most trades, transactions and exchanges happen within a city or town and local online classifieds have gained traction since the last few years.
  • Emergence of the Mobile Internet. Internet penetration in India has been constrained because of broadband and PC penetration where as Mobile penetration has been explosive. People are beginning to realise the ease of access of Internet through their mobiles and in many cases they are having their first exposure to internet through a mobile handset. Online classifieds on Mobile are gradually gaining traction and with the rapidly growing mobile internet users, it could be a large chunk soon.
OLX recently got 5 million funding from Nexus(India) , how difficult is it for startups to raise money at this point of time ?
It’s definitely tougher to get funding nowadays. However, if the team and the idea is good and the initial business results have been demonstrated, I am sure funding would be easier to come.

Craigslist is very dominant in US, how does OLX plan to compete with it's popularity ?
OLX is more popular in markets outside of the US. We are doing quite well in Mexico, Spain, Portugal, Russia, Latin American countries and India. In US, we have been encouraged by the response we have got.

Our differentiating factors are that we are focusing on product and business model innovation. Craigslist charges for jobs, real estate and other categories in certain cities, whereas we are 100% free to post and intend to remain free to post. We feel that charging limits the number of ads on the site which is a detriment to the user experience. We want our users to find whatever it is they are looking for.

From a product perspective, we aspire to be as good in every vertical as the best paid vertical sites. Already we have a number of innovations relative to many of our competitors:
  • We have a fantastic mobile version such as reachable from any cell phone.
  • We allow users to promote their listings automatically on social networks.
  • We have a rich WYSIWYG editor allowing users to create colorful postings without knowing HTML.
  • We support photos and videos.
  • The site is multilingual even within countries with 39 languages supported.
  • We have powerful search functions in real estate and cars.
If OLX is completely free, what is the revenue model of OLX ?
We are having text ads (currently provided by Google) as the only monetization option. Our core site will always be 100% free. However we have launched 'Featured Listings' in few countries that allows users to get prominent placement on the site. This is certainly a value add to the advertisers, without compromising on the free listings that one can still post. We do not have any immediate plans to introduce this in India.

Our mobile site is also completely free for users. The mobile site has a banner or text ad on top and bottom of each page and is monetized through ad networks.

If you have any questions for Amarjit, kindly leave them in the comments and we would add them in the Part (II) of the interview.

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At Sep 2, 2009, 2:52:00 PM , Anonymous Monty said...

Hi, it is very good information about the classified site. You are providing so many things.But you should improve your site quality as well as information.

At Sep 2, 2009, 4:26:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comment and I am glad that you found the information useful. I would be glad to know what you like/don't like wrt quality. Can you drop a mail on so that I can improve since viewer feedback is quite important.

At Dec 31, 2009, 7:45:00 PM , Blogger ira said...

Nice blog got here. I'd like to read a bit about classifieds. Thank
you for sharing
information says CBclickbank.

At Mar 2, 2010, 6:48:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

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