Arriving Nigeria in 2012, world leading online classified site OLX has integrated the Nigerian culture and uniqueness in establishing an unprecedented success in its e-commerce segment, clinching the Nigeria Technology Best Classifieds Ads Website of the Year, 2015.
In this exclusive interview with Footprint to Africa’s Editor, OLX Nigeria Country Manager, Lola Masha, reflects on the early beginnings of OLX in Nigeria, challenges and notable milestones the company has been able to accomplish in four sterling years, which was commemorated with the opening of its new ultra-modern office in Lagos on Thursday 11thAugust 2016.
How has the past four years been for OLX in Nigeria?
It has been a great journey, we started when we were a very small brand, when no one knew who we were or what we stood for, and it’s great that just four years after the start we are now a household brand.
Most folks are familiar with OLX and actually have tried to use OLX as well. We’ve learnt a lot and gotten stronger as well and the future is extremely bright for us and we look forward to the future very much.
What were some of those challenges you encountered?
The first is that the team is very important and you need to get the right people on board. You need to hire Nigerians that understand the Nigerian market, you need to train them appropriately and make sure that they have the right resources and the right of course to be successful.
I believe that is critically important because no one can do it alone to the extent that you are able to leverage the team and be on the same page, have the same goals will definitely help any company grow stronger and we actually benefitted from that, building a fantastic team in Nigeria.
Secondly we also had to adopt an innovative strategy because of the uniqueness of the Nigerian market and what our users were demanding. We recently launched our OLX ‘Do it for Me’ initiative and that is a premium VIP service where our OLX Champs can actually help you sell your items.
So they would come to you and they would take pictures of those items and they will post those items for you, they would receive calls on your behalf, negotiate for the best price and essentially help you close the deal.
So they are basically your personal assistants for selling. Maybe you have a car you want to sell, all you need to do, is outsource it to our champs and they take all the headaches away from you and help you successfully sell.
It’s been a fantastic initiative; the adoption rate has been fantastic, phenomenon, more than what we even anticipated.
Nigerians do love convenience; we are used to people doing things for us. I was at the head office of a very large bank about a month ago and there was someone whose job it was to just push the button on the elevator, so we can’t even push elevator buttons ourselves!
We are used to having cooks, nannies, drivers; it’s a very much do it for me society and we needed to plug into that.
How is e-commerce playing out in Africa?
E-commerce is still young in Africa quite frankly, but the future is very bright, there are forerunners like Konga that have done a fantastic job of growing the space and likes of OLX that is pioneering the classified ad space.
However, we are glad that we are where we are – being involved from the start and we look forward to growing the e-commerce industry in Africa.
How is OLX doing in Africa?
We are doing fine with very towering presence in eight countries: Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Angola, Mozambique, South Africa and Egypt and offices in three countries – South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya.
We have been expanding quite a bit across the continent and we are in about 40 countries globally.
On your this fourth anniversary what is your message to your customers?
First of all we want to thank them because we can’t do it alone, so we thank all of our loyal buyers and sellers for patronising OLX. There is a lot more to come, a lot more to improve and evolve and we ask those that haven’t tried us to give us a try, because we know they will be pleased.
What is behind the advisory media materials which OLX sometimes releases to the public?
It is important to also educate Nigerians, not just about what we do, but about how to be more efficient within their day-to-day lives. So if that means how to better take care of your car so that that car lasts you longer, then it’s our duty to do that.
It could also mean giving advice on jobs – how to interview and how to take a written test – that is also in our interest as well. It is important that we continue to do those things to support the Nigerian community and the entrepreneurs here.
How have you addressed people’s fears of getting defrauded online?
We have put in a lot of measures because trust and safety is our priority in Nigeria, we can’t succeed as a business if we don’t fix trust and safety. It is actually in our own interest to keep fraudsters out.
Every single ad that goes live on OLX is reviewed by OLX staff and we also encourage users to report any suspicious entry and bad behaviour to us and we have an investigative agency that takes it up from there.
Fraud is not unique to e-commerce it is the nature of the environment, it is unfortunate but we need to do everything that we can, to ensure zero-tolerance to fraud on the OLX platform.
What economic role does OLX actually perform?
We are here to support people who might be needing quick cash by helping them sell things like their used furniture, refrigerators that are no longer in use at home; if you have a second, third or fourth car we can help you sell that and help convert that to cash for your other uses.
On Staff growth
When I joined in 2014, we were just about six people; currently we are about 150 people that are full-time and contract staff. We have also expanded to cities outside Lagos, we have champs in Port-Harcourt now and we plan to expand to other cities in the short-term, it is growth, growth all along.