OLX, or online exchange, has a massive community of eight million Filipino users who trade goods and services through postings in an online platform that has redefined the barter system.
While it is now controlled by a South African media company, OLX Philippines started in 2006 as Sulit.com.ph—the brainchild of Filipino couple RJ and Arianne David.
The platform now gets 40,000 new listings each day. It allows registered users to post free classifieds on products and services such as cars, condominium units, electronics, gadgets, appliances, furniture, clothes, books, jewelries, pets, jobs, business opportunities and services as well as deals on hotels, resorts, restaurants, healthcare, education, entertainment, sports, hobbies, health and beauty.
“We are the largest buy and sell platform and classifieds within the Philippines,” says Giancarlo Bonsel, a Dutch national who serves as general manager of OLX Philippines.
“It is a great place where people can sell items. Anything sells in OLX and it sells fast because of the huge audience that we have on a daily and monthly basis. So that’s what OLX’s rationale is all about—meeting, buying and selling. It’s about goods and services they do care about,” says Bonsel.
More than eight million unique users visit OLX.ph each month, Bonsel says during the launching of the company’s new marketing campaign at White Space in Makati City.
The David couple built Sulit.com.ph in September 2006 with P2,400 as capital, but sold their stake to Naspers, a South African company in 2009. The couple remained in the board, with RJ keeping his post as managing director and Arianne as head of operations. Sulit became OLX Philippines in 2014 and emerged as a dominant online classifieds company in the country, supplanting the print media as the main platform for classifieds.
The David couple has recently given way to a new management team, led by Bonsel as general manager, Cris Concepcion as chief marketing officer, Bit Santos as chief technology officer and Steve Santos as country manager of Property 24 Philippines, which caters to online real estate classifieds.
Concepcion says OLX has made its mark in the local market. “I think what differentiates us is that aside from that advantage and sheer volume of users already engaged is that we have a strong local team,” says Concepcion. “We do see the value of this and we have people on the ground to make sure that we have a pulse on the market and we can act in ways where all our inventories are relevant to our users.”
OLX, which started in Argentina as online exchange before it was acquired by Naspers, is the world’s biggest brand in classifieds, with over 300 million active users and 28 billion monthly page views. It is now also available in 45 countries and has more than 2,000 employees globally.
OLX was established in Argentina by young entrepreneurs Fabrice Grinda and Alec Oxenford who saw the potential of mobile technology in creating a positive impact on people’s lives. Naspers acquired OLX in August 2010 and transformed it into the world’s largest brand for consumer-to-consumer trade.
Naspers expanded the brand through acquisitions of online classified services in the Philippines (Sulit), Thailand, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, and Indonesia and re-branded them as OLX.
Concepcion says OLX users are mostly young professionals, with ages 20 to 24 years. “So anywhere from late teens to early twenties go for us. One of the reasons I think we’re growing is that younger consumers are more environmentally aware. I think that younger consumers have a slightly different mindset from the older generation,” he says.
“So the younger generation takes a lot of value investing on experiences and to see things and meet people and their stuff can be exchanged or extended or swapped or sold and bought back, and I think this behavior to some degree manifests the share economy where we see people share rides and share things and that is the behavior that’s gonna develop for our country moving forward in the next few years,” Concepcion says.
To support the expansion of the brand, OLX Philippines launched its new campaign called ‘Win Together.’
“We make sure that people come together and actually bring together, hence the name of our campaign this year, which expresses the deeper value of the connections that we create on our platform which is OLX. Within OLX, we go by the title of ‘Everybody wins.’ We truly believe that our own platform is classified, which is different from e-commerce because it is created by people coming together and therefore making gateway transactions for both parties,” says Bonsel who is a part of Naspers Group.
Bonsel says OLX today is all about the connections and lifestyle created through the simple act of buying and selling. “Through our platform, we connect people with one another to create value with each transaction and in time, foster relationships that enable a growing, supportive community that wins together.”
Concepcion says buying and selling go beyond practical function. “The exchanges between buyers and sellers create a community where everybody wins. Within our larger community are smaller communities of like-minded individuals who share passions. It is in our best interest to help these ‘tribes’ grow their own community base as well as encourage entrepreneurship and healthy exchanges with more people. Collectively, community efforts contribute to a greater goal of promoting sustainability, thereby enabling all stakeholders to win together,” says Concepcion.
Concepcion says the platform also empowers local communities by turning their pre-owned goods into new opportunities.
“This lifestyle coupled with technology has created a collaborative economy where people share and exchange goods and resources as they create connections and build relationships with one another. We hope that our platform continues to be part of motivating more people to create communities engaging in winning exchanges,” says Bonsel.
“It is something you cannot find anywhere else because we have everything that you want, look for and find in OLX. And even better, you can find it at a range that you can’t find anywhere else either because many prices are pre-owned and pre-loved. Therefore, you can get them at a great deal,” says Bonsel.
Bonsel says OLX has also done its part to protect the platform from scam. “Occasionally there is only a handful from the hundreds and thousands of cases that we handle every week that are fraud and scam. It still hurts the community and we really need to care about that. So we do a number of things to protect the people. So first, we emphasize always on the buyer education. We preach on the good practices and the right thing to do when you purchase something online. And the other part is that we rely on the community to protect each other as well,” he says.
“OLX is a platform where buyers and sellers meet and where transaction happens between them. We are not part of the transaction so we are not able to examine each and every item so if in case something fishy happens and there is a report made about the item, we will investigate,” he says.
Bonsel says the core of OLX platform remains free. “This is what we are. But what we also are is that we are a great place for people to start and to grow a business on a platform because of the sheer size of the audience that we have. Now we believe that once you can grow a business on OLX, at a certain point, we are creating value together,” says Bonsel.
He says earnings will come from fees charged on users who make postings beyond a certain limit.
“When you post a certain number of items beyond the certain limits, then we charge you a minimum fee when you go beyond it so that’s how we do it. Because there is so much, there is such a huge audience for certain galleries. There’s a lot of vendors, there’s a lot of sellers. You may want to start a legitimate wall to sell your items faster and to sell it a price that you want. So therefore, we have certain features with value added services that will help you boost the audience that you get, boost the views, and boost the context and increase the likelihood that you will sell it at a speed that you want and at a price that you want,” he says.
Bonsel says despite the rise of other online classifieds, OLX remains optimistic about its prospects in the Philippines.
“What makes us unique is the community that we have. We have a community on a monthly basis of eight million unique users who come to our platform and engage with each other to buy and to sell the goods and services and to engage with them because they care about those goods and services whether they are brand new or pre-owned.”
“So that is what we believe is our main advantage to our competitors. And it takes a while to nurture that and takes a great deal of effort to make sure that the community is growing and is perfected as earlier raised. So that is what we believe is our strength over any competition that comes in,” Bonsel says.
Bonsel says as both buyers and sellers win together, OLX also shares the success of its users. “More sellers, more buyers equates to even larger communities which create more activity on our platform. This is something that the whole community will benefit from, because this means the products will sell faster and you can find even better deals. This is how we truly feel what the role of OLX is,” he says.
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