August 14, 2009

WOM is very important for startups - Amarjit Batra, OLX India

In the previous article, we spoke to Amarjit Batra, country manager of OLX India on OLX, Marketing, Online Classifieds etc. In this episode; we speak to him on Web, Startups, Entrepreneurship. Hope you enjoy the interview.

What are some of the Web 2.0 features that OLX promises to it's users ?

OLX is a Web 2.0 product and users can easily design rich colorful listings with pictures and videos and display their listings on their social networking profile [Facebook, Myspace].Some of the features that make us different from others are:
  • 100% free (forever) even in jobs and real estate
  • Ability to include videos and pictures in listings
  • A city, neighborhood and zip code database so the entire country is covered and not just pre-selected cities
  • Ajax "WYSIWYG" rich-text editor for richer listings
  • Ability to comment on listings to create a stronger community
  • Advanced search functions with sliders allowing searches at variable regional settings
  • A distance field allowing you to see postings near your zip code wherever possible
  • Ability to post listings in any language in any country
  • Ability to view the site in any country in any language
  • Global reach
  • Mobile version: The mobile version is unique as one can do everything that can be done on the web
Currently OLX is only in English, do you plan to release for other Indian languages considering the penetration of internet in India ?
Actually, we are present in English and Hindi as of today. You can check the Hindi site at Going by the India Internet reports, it is evident that local language consumption on internet is on the rise and could possibly drive the future penetration of Internet in the country. We would like to gain some traction in Hindi before launching other Indian languages in the country.

There is strong likelihood that local languages consumption would be driven by Mobile internet. OLX site is already accessible on the Mobile through our WAP offerings and having other local languages on mobile would help.

During this time of recession, one important thing is Cutting/Managing Costs? How is OLX doing the same ?
OLX is a 3.5 years old company. By the nature of our business model, we are very scalable and have a lean team of 125 people managing our sites in 90 countries.

Keeping the recession in mind, we are focusing on efficiency and optimizing spends. Business wise, we are in a growth phase and we have been busy expanding our footprint across the globe. Therefore, we do not shy away from spending if the opportunity is good.

Where do you see OLX from 3-5 years down the line ?
In 3-5 years, OLX should emerge as the preferred destination and a strong brand in most markets where we are focused. We will continue to innovate and provide the best classifieds experience to our millions of users and hope to become the largest classifieds site in the world.

Can you share some tips for the budding Entrepreneurs ?
I feel budding entrepreneurs should look at the following before getting into a start up
  • Are they really passionate with the idea and willing to commit long term to making it succeed?
  • Who are they going to work with? It’s important that the core team is experienced and have complementary skills. Even the VC’s prefer ‘a good team with an average idea’ to ‘an average team with a good idea’.
  • Entrepreneurs should be clear about their business model and have a monetization plan in place, even if the initial phase is experimental and does not fetch any revenues
  • Flexibility and adaptability are traits that could differentiate between successful and failed start ups. Sometimes start ups struggle initially but adapt and tweak the model to the market conditions to succeed.
  • Keep experimenting new ideas or new ways and
  • Always ask your network of friends and acquaintances for support or ideas. Do not underestimate the strength of the weak ties.
How important is marketing aspect in Web startup & can you share some tips with us ?
Marketing is important but considering that most web start ups are constrained with cash, one cannot expect to spend huge sums on marketing campaigns.

Marketing tools that work best for a web start up would be SEO, Partnerships & Alliances, promotions, social media marketing and community driven marketing. SEM should be also be considered depending on the marketing budget.

A good product acts as a marketing tool too. The word of mouth from users takes over the job of marketing and most successful web companies have been built this way.

Where do you see the Future of Web, since Mobile & Web [Real Time Web] are converging ?
I believe that the Future of Web is mobile. It’s much more personal, convenient and accessible 24/7 and mobile is surpassing the PC penetration in most developing economies. 3G accessibility, smart phones pricing and penetration will play a key role in translating this potential into a reality. The dynamics of this market should change two to three years from today.

When do you feel is the right stage an Entrepreneur should approach a VC for funding ?
An Entrepreneur should approach the VC for funding when most of these conditions have been met
  • The Company has been incorporated and business has been launched
  • The Founding team is in place, but there is a need for addition of talent in senior and middle management to set up the team for the next phase
  • The business model has been tested with the first set of clients or markets and the expansion needs cash infusion
  • Business needs to build the critical mass quickly to get the first mover advantage, or is in a situation where the barriers to entry are low
  • Have the business plan in place for the next three to five years and the execution of the plan requires capital or manpower
In some cases, the Entrepreneur can get funding at start of the venture. This is most likely in cases when the Entrepreneur has proven experience or the business model or sector excites the VC to take the initial risk. These cases are few in number, so it’s better if the entrepreneur is prepared to rough it out on their own for the initial phase of six months to a year.

Final parting words...
I would like to share a Les Brown quote I really like

"Shoot for the Moon. Even if you miss, you will land among the stars"

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At Aug 26, 2009, 12:47:00 PM , Blogger Mehar said...

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At Sep 8, 2009, 5:47:00 PM , Anonymous Allen said...

Effortless shot. It is a great way of marketing. You have done a very good job with it, nice post. Keep it up!!!!!

At Sep 8, 2009, 6:21:00 PM , OpenID hjsblogger said...

Hey Allen,
It is nice to see that you liked the article/interview.

Hope to see you back again on ThoughtsPrevail.

-Himanshu Sheth


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