Nigeria is a market you can’t ignore — OLX Country Manager, Lola Masha

Trust and safety remain key ingredients to the success of e-commerce business. In this interview with ADEDEJI ADEYEMI FAKOREDE, the OLX Country Manager, Lola Masha, explains measures being put in place by the e-commerce platform to ensure that consumers’ interest in e-commerce business remains unwavering. Excerpts.

WHAT prompt your decision to come to Nigeria?
OLX is established as an online classified platform where we bring buyers and sellers together to transact effectively. OLX is a global brand, with a presence in 40 countries. And contrary to the general belief that we are a South African company, our headquarters is in Amsterdam, Netherland.
Our decision to come to Nigeria was informed by the fact that Nigeria is a market that you can’t ignore and we think the potential to truly give Nigerian buyers and sellers’ value is tremendous. We believe very strongly in the value that we provide in connecting buyers and sellers and in promoting trade that is one of the reasons we are here.

How can you rate e-Commerce business in Nigeria?
The e-commerce industry actually has different types of business models. You have the standard retail business model which is the e-commerce business itself. This actually has a warehouse that holds the goods. Interestingly, the likes of Konga and Jumia are in that space. You have daily-deal business, which is to promote special deal of the day and the classic business. Unfortunately, there are still some misconceptions and some confusion among our users on the difference between those various units.
For instance, we are in the online classic space and what that means is that we step out as a middleman and allow buyers and sellers to connect to get the most value. We are number one in Nigeria. We are here not only to play but to succeed and to win, that is why we take all steps necessary to make sure all that happen.
We recently bought our competitor trade depot, they were the number two competitor and they had been in Nigeria before we even got here, but they were willing to do business with us. For us, it is an open demonstration of our commitment to the fact that OLX believes in Nigerian market and we are here to thrive.

What kind of e-Commerce model are you using?
I wouldn’t want to speak for other models. I know the classic space and I can speak of that. I think it would actually make sense to have a form of industry regular forum for the various parties to get together to continue to educate the users and update them on how each model is different and how they are doing.
So, in classic we have grown significantly in the last 12 months, we have been in Nigeria for four years now. On the average, we have about 10,000 new ads that are posted on OLX side. We make sure that we take all precaution necessary to review those ads and ensure that we do not allow ads that do not meet our quality standard. We have continued to innovate to provide high quality content for our users.

How do you intend to build trust on your users using OLX?
Trust and safety is our number one priority and frankly if we didn’t build that, we wouldn’t be where we are now in 12 months. For us to have successfully done business during this period, we must have built trust and confidence in our platform. There are other steps that we have taken that are actually unique to the Nigerian market. There are several initiatives that we are taking to help improve user’s trust too. The first is around user communication and awareness. So, in all of our marketing ads and communication, we continue to emphasise the need for the user to tread the path of safety by transacting business using some of our set guidelines.
We have verified our ads in thirteen categories. This is a deviation from what would happen anywhere else. If you go to India or Brazil, they don’t do this. We realise the unique situation and nuances of Nigerian market and we have taken the extra steps of actually validating the ads of cars and real estate postings in the vehicle and real estate categories and we are hoping that it would continue to give users confidence in the ads that they see on our platform.
We continue to tighten control around who can use the site and we block users who have been reported to us by our users. We try everything we can; frankly we are not perfect and we can’t do it all by ourselves and we continue to implore our users to report by emailing us or by calling us or by letting us know on facebook. But we have multiple channels that our users can contact us, we actually implore them to do so, to report cases that they may not be comfortable with so that we can take action. We block every single report once we verify that the user is not legitimate.

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Impact of negative happenings on the business?
Fairly enough we haven’t seen a decline in traffic to the site. I think that speaks to the fact that those already used to OLX understand how it works. We have not seen any drop whatsoever in terms of numbers of people that come to the site, in terms of traffic to the website and numbers of postings to the website.

What the impact of e-commerce on the nation’s economy?
This is the type of question we have been thinking about answering in a more tangible and quantitative way. I think about 1,200 ads are currently running on the website. The average value in terms of naira is huge. For instance, if you look at houses, cars and even fashions, they go for an average of N100, 000. So you can do the mathematics. 1,200 postings with average value of N100, 000, it is a huge number. But what we are going to do is that we will do a more in-depth analysis for those that successfully trade on the platform. What is the value of that and what is the economic impact that OLX is contributing to the nation’s economy? We know it is huge and from our indicators, we know that it is very significant and we are now taking steps to conduct all necessary research to share much more widely with the public.
From people’s point of view, we are creating jobs, through our full time staff and also through those who work with us on contract capacity. For the fact that we have grown significantly in the last two years, is an indication that our contributions to this economy can’t be wished away.