Business

The paradigm shift from print to digital has wreaked havoc on print’s bottom line and has driven revenues for digital. As traditional media organisations make the move to digital formats, a new category of websites and apps has had users hooked. Taking advantage of this, one classified giant, OLX has gained massive popularity over the years.

From selling household items you no longer need to the sale of your car or your house, to anything you can think of, OLX can do it. And because it is an economical form of advertising than conventional media, and anyone with anything to sell can easily set up an account, it is expected that the industry’s growth will continue booming for years to come.

Founded in 2006 in Argentina, OLX has quickly made a name for itself globally as well as locally in Pakistan. In September 2011, OLX entered Pakistan and it hasn’t looked back since. After launching its first TV Commercial in 2012, OLX Pakistan has grown to become the leading online classifieds platform in Pakistan. The brand growth was fueled by heavy marketing investment which was well complemented by the love of Pakistani people who adopted the use of OLX in selling and buying things from cars to furniture, property to mobiles, electronics to pets and a variety of other categories.

Under the leadership of Mr Bilal Bajwa, who took over as GM in April, 2016, today the situation is such that every minute four mobile phones, two cars, three electronic items are listed on OLX. Yes you read that right, every minute!

Bilal Bajwa said that Internet penetration was one of the biggest challenges you faced early on in the business.

As Internet penetration increases in Pakistan, the posting of classifieds on the web can easily reach a wide client base. Pakistan’s internet enabled population is limited to around 30 million users today. This, however, is expected to rise up to 56 million users by 2019. This has further been driven by Pakistan’s entry into 3G and LTE services, which is expected to drive the market of online purchases.

When asked about the most sold and purchased through his website, Bajwa said that mobiles were the most purchased item.

Bajwa says that a typical OLX user is mostly a male aged between 18 to 35 years but it varies by category. “Overall, we are for all Pakistani and for segments of the society and we see this in our data and profile of the users.”

“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 500k people using the platform daily. OLX is almost 3x bigger any of its vertical competition present in autos and property. Our scale allows us to serve entire Pakistan effectively and it greatly improves the response rates for ads posted on our platform,” says Bilal Bajwa, GM Pakistan & CPO for OLX MENA.

These positive environmental factors, plus the immense effort by OLX Pakistan team has resulted in making OLX  the biggest websites in Pakistan in all categories. Everyday, goods worth 20 billion are being sold on OLX. Out of this, only mobile phones worth 2 billion rupees are sold every month. All in all, OLX, spread across 118 cities across Pakistan, has created a used-good economy worth a trillion rupees in the last five years.

Bajwa said that “OLX has provided people from all segments of the society the opportunity to interact without any barriers. This has led to the development of a transparent and liquid marketplace that serves an underserved sector of the economy. It has made it possible for goods to be made available at a price-points that were previously unthinkable.
Simultaneously, OLX has brought in millions of dollars worth substantial investment to Pakistan and provided employment opportunities for the local talent. It has helped develop the tech ecosystem of the country by educating the masses.

“These past five years have been both exciting and challenging for us. The Pakistani market has proven itself to be one of the most receptive audiences to adopt new trends,” Bajwa says adding that  “Pakistanis — unlike those in other markets — have tons of used things lying in their houses. Estimates suggest that such used goods in Pakistan are worth more than Rs. 14.44 billion.”

“This is where OLX comes in and plays a role. If there’s an item that’s not in use anymore, we help the owners sell it at a competitive price. Hence OLX provides the middle class an opportunity to easily sell unwanted goods and make money from them.”

“OLX has been contributing positively to the economy of the country by recycling wealth among communities and generating employment opportunities for both men and women. Through our platform, individuals are gaining access to additional income while fulfilling their dreams of acquiring things which were not accessible to them otherwise.”

When asked that how does OLX make sure that the customer receives the product they have requested for without having to worry about frauds, Bajwa said  that OLX is a platform which provides buyers and sellers a contact point. OLX does not participate in any on ground transactions. Users are continuously educated about how to do safe transactions with in public places.

“A dedicated team of 25 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. We are also actively communicating with FIA Cyber crime unit for information sharing so that our platform can be safe.”

This is a spectacular success story of OLX. In just a few years, OLX has entered Pakistan and become a market leader. The numbers speak for themselves, with 2.5 million downloads on Play Store, users spread across Pakistan, a great infrastructure and hard working team led by Mr Bilal Bajwa, OLX has managed to create a whole parallel economy that had never existed before.

It is no small feat that OLX has managed to revolutionize a whole industry, and for OLX, this is just the beginning.