I had written an article on online classifieds and the industry in general , about a week or so ago and was delighted to note that one of the visitors who had left some feedback was Fabrice Grinda , the Co CEO of Olx Inc, one of the largest classifieds site network in existence today.
Fabrice was kind enough to accept a request for a brief email interview which is published below.
What according to you is classifieds?
Classifieds are a form of (usually text based) advertising that allows individuals and companies to solicit sales for products and services. They appear online and offline and can be free or paid for. Traditionally they have been print ads in newspapers, but are now moving online to specialized sites like Monster or general sites like OLX
Reasons which prompted you to set up a classifieds site?
I left my previous company, Zingy (www.zingy.com) in November 2005. As I started looking for business ideas, I notice the tremendous value that Craigslist was bringing to consumers in the US market. It was bringing classifieds to the masses by allowing everyone to find roommates, baby sitters, couches, etc. for free. I also noticed that outside of the US the classifieds markets were still dominated by the newspapers who charged an arm and a leg to post.
It struck me that there was a tremendous opportunity to bring free classifieds to the rest of the world and thus provide a great public service to local communities. We took the basic concept from Craigslist – simple, local, free – and improved upon it and localized it for each country.
What is Olx’s strength with respect to the global scene and specifically India?
We have built a great product with differentiated features:
A great mobile site accessible at http://mobile.olx.com
A nice Ajax Wysiwyg editor to have rich colorful listings without having to have knowledge of Html.
– We support embedded pictures and videos.
– You can display your listings on Facebook.
– One can track multiple listings through “my olx”
Specifically for India, we have all the main regions and cities covered and we will be launching our Hindi version in the first quarter of 2008.
What do you predict with respect to the growth and size of this industry in the Indian context?
Free classifieds will grow the market tremendously as people start posting classifieds for things they would never pay for in a newspaper: roommates, baby sitters, dog walkers, caterers, dates, etc.
How much traffic, and how big a registered database do you have in India. How fast is it growing?
We get 800,000 visits per month in India which is double what we had a few months ago.
Primary hurdles for a classifieds site?.
People who list need to get replies. People who are looking for something need to see ads for what they are looking for. It sounds simple but it’s hard to implement. When you start the site is empty and you have no traffic so getting traction requires a lot of work.
Once you have traction, the main problem for free sites become spam and scams.
User experience is very important, what are the initiatives Olx has taken to better this.
We keep testing new features and designs to continuously improve the user experience. Over the past 12 months we completely redesigned the site. A few things we changed:
- Ggreatly simplified the posting process.
- We put pictures in the listing results page which decreases page views since visiting that specific page is not required anymore but improves usability.
- We put 50 ads in the listing results page as opposed to 10 or 20. This again decrease pageviews but is more convenient to users.
We are in the process of introducing filters on the listing results pages which are currently only live in India and the Phillipenes right now.
Steps taken to take care of fraud, multiple listings, inaccurate data etc.
Spam and scams are extremely tough problems for free classified sites. We rely on both automated and manual processes. We blacklist keywords, IP addresses, countries, etc. and also have a 20 person customer service team monitoring the site, removing duplicates, spam, etc.
The process is not perfect yet, but improving. We intend to more to 24/7 monitoring at some point in February or March. We are also working on what we hope will be a phenomenal proprietary new spam/scam filtering tool.
What are the revenue models available? Do you see yourself opting for banner advertising etc?
Most classified companies charge fees to post an ad. However, there is a wide range of business models – I have seen subscription models (in matrimonial sites for instance), charges to reply to ads (often on roommate sites).
We have chosen to be free to post and free to reply – and intend to remain so forever! We make money by displaying text ads (currently provided by Google) on the listings results page and on individual classified ads. We don’t intend to put more ads in the short term.
We will eventually charge users who want to feature their listings by having them appear on the home page of OLX or the top of the listings, but we don’t plan to launch this in India in the immediate future.
Anything which we can expect to roll out from the Olx stable in the coming weeks.
We will be deploy the filters we first deployed in India on the listings results page to the other OLX countries in the coming weeks. We are also working on making them specific to each category.
We have a lot of new features in the works, but the most important Indian specific feature is the launch of Hindi in the first quarter.
Anything else ,of note, you would like to mention.
It is probably worth mentioning that in India we work Atul Khekade, who was nominated as one of the top entrepreneurs in Asia under 25 by Businessweek Online in 2006.