Dialogue

Mobile contributes more than 60% of overall traffic of OLX.in

Amarjit Singh Batra is the CEO of OLX India. He joined OLX in 2009 and has played a founding role in the establishment of OLX India and the horizontal free online classifieds industry in the country.

Amarjit Singh Batra is the CEO of OLX India. He joined OLX in 2009 and has played a founding role in the establishment of OLX India and the horizontal free online classifieds industry in the country.

Amarjit has diverse management experience spanning nearly two decades of which the last 12 years have been in the Indian Internet space. Prior to joining OLX, Amarjit spent 5.5 years with Baazee/eBay India where he was part of the senior management team. He graduated in Industrial Engineering and has an MBA from University Business School (UBS), Chandigarh. He is the member of the Online Classifieds committee of Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).

In an exclusive interaction with India Digital Review, Amarjit talks about OLX’s journey from the start, mobile as a platform of brand communication and getting more people to use online classifieds.

OLX has recently been judged as India’s top online advertiser with 1.38 billion display ad impressions. What would you say is the USP of OLX?

OLX brought and developed the idea of online consumer-to-consumer (C2C) classifieds in India at a time when horizontal classifieds were unknown in the country. Our journey from the market maker to the market leader has been an overwhelming one because we have had the vision to do things differently, and to invest in the innovative ideas at the right time. As the market maker for online C2C classifieds in India, we have leveraged advertising to create awareness about our brand, to educate the user about the potential of selling and buying used goods, and how easy it is to transact used goods on OLX. A lot of thought and planning has gone into all our ad campaigns because we essentially used them to break the long existing habit of stocking used goods that are not needed. Our strong position in the Indian consumer’s mind of being ‘the best place to buy and sell used goods’would be our strongest USP in this journey. 

Another example of our leadership thinking is the early launch of the OLX mobile app. We are today the number one buying and selling app in India, with more than 6 million downloads across different platforms. The response to our app has been phenomenal even in tier 2 and tier 3 cities.

The content on our website is one hundred percent user generated. OLX never posts ads on behalf of its users by taking ad details through call centres, SMS, or any other medium. This ensures that the content on our website has higher quality, and keeps us free of any legal implication that might come one’s way when one posts ads on behalf of users.

Our focus on the C2C market, when others in the industry including the traditional classifieds are focusing on B2C classifieds, also sets us apart. OLX.in’s strategy is to keep growing in a way that helps connect buyers and sellers, while helping unused goods find users.

Do you feel that online companies should build their brand on traditional media and acquire customers online? Is brand building possible on Internet?

Online and offline media are both integral to the process of brand building. In the case of OLX.in, our activities are a balanced mix of online and offline strategies. We have used the offline media very strategically at different points to create awareness about the brand and the services OLX.in offers. The response to our television ads has been incredible, with our tagline ‘OLX Pe Bech De’ striking a chord with people all over India. This demonstrates how closely our users associate themselves with the brand.

Online is a very strong tool for branding, especially for an online company, but it has its limitation for brand building. The Internet population is on the rise in India which means that no one can afford to ignore this medium. But, companies that need to build a differentiated brand proposition would benefit from TV, if done correctly.

At OLX we have been using digital in tandem with traditional medium. We have not shied away from using Youtube to communicate with our users. We have a series of videos that educate the user on how to use OLX, giving them important tips in just five seconds! We have recently started video testimonials that share success stories of users using OLX that have received remarkable response. These testimonials are running online as well as offline. We also use online display adsthat work especially well with the first time users and for acquisition.

How has been the uptake of OLX on the mobile platform? What percentage of the site’s traffic comes from mobile?

Mobile is an integral part of the selling and buying experience offered by OLX.in. The OLX.in app recently surpassed 6 million downloads in India to emerge as the most popular buying and selling app in the country. The ease and the simplicity of the app has made it the preferred classifieds app across all demographics, and particularly popular among the new Internet users.

Mobile contributes more than 60% of overall traffic of OLX.in. It is tremendously popular among big cities and sees regular visits from tier-2 and tier-3 cities, growing at 700% in 2013 alone.

Mobile is being held as a great medium for brand communication, but still, very less amount is spent on the particular medium. What is your take on this?

Mobile advertising is still maturing, and will become much bigger than what it is today.  Even digital advertising took a lot of time to get accepted before brands started diverting meaningful spends to it. Similarly, advertisers are currently experimenting with mobile advertising and learning about how it can be useful for their brands.

In the next couple of years, we can expect more advertisers as well as larger spends being allocated to mobile. The reason is that mobile Internet is booming in India and is currently driving Internet penetration, with many new Internet users using only the mobile to go online. So, soon enough brands will start finding unique audiences on mobile, thus increasing their spends on the medium.

What is the business model of OLX?

The business model of OLX is based on advertising done through contextual and display, as is the case with most high traffic websites. Paid value-added listings, in which, for a small fee a user can get greater value and better position on the search results for his/her ad listing, is also part of OLX’s business model.

However, at the moment we are not offering the paid value-added listing as we are focusing on growth and not monetization. Our current focus is on improving customer experience and trust. Also we want to promote the listings from Individual sellers, which is the core target group for us.

What answers do you seek from your digital advertising agencies and digital media partners while promoting your brand on Internet?

Our digital advertising and digital media agencies are an integral part of our strategy, and we work very closely with both of them. With the digital advertising agency we focus on user education and creating awareness about OLX, its benefits, and how it is the most convenient way of buying and selling. They also help us ascertain the right triggers that will help users come on OLX.

With our digital media partners, we seek their help to build category specific communication, and demographic specific communication. This helps us broaden our regional reach, improve the experience for the existing users, while connecting us with new ones. For example, if we want to target users looking for cars, then our digital media partners can help us with targeted campaigns.

How do you see your marketing objectives aligning with what the online medium offers from two years down the line?

As an online company, our growth is tied closely to the growth of Internet.  Increasing number of people going online, and growing mobile Internet penetration are factors that are certainly going to aid our business. However, we believe in creating a 360 degree marketing approach with a balanced focus, and therefore we will continue to use traditional media.

We have significant traffic coming from mobile so our usage of mobile advertising is expected to grow. We are also using social media to tap into consumer conversations and build a buzz for our brand, and we also expect this to grow.

What is the current user base of OLX? How do you plan to get those people on board who are not yet using online classifieds?

There was no marketplace for used goods before OLX entered the market and developed it. Our experience has taught us that there was always a strong need for a used goods marketplace in India. People merely needed to be educated about the value of the goods they were stocking, and required a convenient way of selling. It was an uphill task to create that market for used goods, but today we are the largest used goods marketplace in the country. Our monthly page views touched 850 million in November 2013, demonstrating the kind of user engagement no other classifieds website in India is experiencing.

Now that people know about OLX as a brand, it will be much easier for us to get the non-users on OLX. People have seen the value and benefits of OLX in the last couple of years, so we no longer need to convince them about the brand. We are going to remain focused on C2C. We will continue to use TVCs, and online and offline campaigns, to educate our user about OLX. Through TV we have already reached out to all non-users and we will gradually convert them to becoming OLX users in the months to come.

We will also leverage mobile. The app is a great way to sell on-the-go and is already helping us attract new users.

Which according to you have been some of the most exciting ad and online campaigns that the OLX has initiated for its brand so far?

A lot of insight and research goes into creating marketing and advertising campaigns at OLX. Our aim is to create a real connect with the audience, and all our campaigns reflect this endeavor.Some of our top online campaigns this year have been:

Youtube Pre-roll Ads Bech De Tips Campaign: OLX started 2013 with the objective of reinforcing the ‘OLX Pe Bech De’ proposition by reaching out to a larger audience. Youtube, because of it’s growing popularity and reach, seemed like the perfect platform for this. However, the challenge on Youtube was that the user can skip the ad after five seconds. This pushed OLX to develop the first of its kind Youtube Pre-roll Ad campaign in India. OLX decided to create twenty thirty second Ads that communicated the brand message in just five seconds.

Ghar Baithe Dua Kamao: This was an online initiative close to our heart as all proceeds from this initiative went to NGO Touch for education of children in rural India. In December, 2013 OLX.in partnered with Bigg Boss 7 to give users the opportunity to buy their favourite Big Boss 7 contestants’ personal belongings online. The initiative called ‘Ghar Baithe Dua Kamao’ was a huge success, allowing users to not only buy the belongings but also giving them the opportunity to earn the blessings of children in rural India.

How has been the growth curve for OLX in 2013?

We have seen extraordinary growth and response in 2013. From a little known brand, today OLX has become the largest used goods marketplace in India with about 850 million page views every month, and growing at a fast pace. We strengthened the reach of ‘OLX Pe Bech De’ tagline this year through our various online and offline campaigns.

Another significant achievement of 2013 was attaining market dominance. We managed to capture 60% market share of the Indian horizontal classifieds space underlining our leadership and continuous exponential growth. Additionally, in the last one year our page views have grown at nearly 400%, our listings by more than 400%, and our visits by almost 200%.

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