Lola Masha is the country manager, OLX Nigeria, the leading online classifieds player in the country. Masha joined OLX Nigeria in February 2014 with the goal of building a world-class, trusted and secured online classifieds business that stands out from its competition.
She holds PhD. in Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. Masha is an outstanding individual with expertise in business development, entrepreneurship, operational transformation, strategy and product development, across numerous industries including technology and consulting.
She has significant international experience and has worked with brands like Google and McKinsey Consulting. In this interview with Peter Ugwu, she swiftly reviews e-commerce space in Nigeria in 2015 while discussing OLX’s ambition for growth in the market in the new year.
Assessment of the Online Marketplace in Nigeria in 2015
It has been an exciting and rollercoaster year. If I compare our successes to the challenges, I think it has been very successful. We started the year with a team of ten (10), but today, both the contract and fulltime staff we are close to 175 people.
So, we have grown tremendously in terms of staff strength. We also look at traffic to the website, we have grown to over 65% from January till date.
We have continued to get positive responses from the users on OLX platform. Because of this, we have made improvement in terms of awareness among the Nigerian online community.
Our partnership over the year were fantastic. One thing we believe in at OLX is that we can’t do it alone. We have a culture of collaborations, partnerships and learnings.
So, we actually, actively, seek other organisations to work with; grow the brand and be able to contribute towards the industry’s growth here in Nigeria.
We have been very pleased with the results from our various partners and tend to do more in 2016 and moving forward.
Nigeria Online Marketplace Market Maturity
The Nigerian online market place has definitely improved, but still quite young. If I look at the percent of Nigerians currently using online classified, irrespective of platform, I think the percentage is still low and needs to improve.
As an industry, we still have a lot of work ahead of us, but we should be able to celebrate how far we have gone in educating the Nigerian users on how to trade safely and successfully on OLX.
Absolutely, competition has pushed us to be innovative to stay ahead of the game. When OLX started three years ago in Nigeria, the platform wasn’t the first (in the country), and we know how hard we had to work to get to the number one position; if possible to overtake the current players.
So, constantly, we are on our toes, innovative and definitely not relaxing in anyway. We are confident that with the team, ideas and products we have we are positioned to meet the demands of our users and succeed in Nigeria.
Winning and Maintaining Users’ Confidence
It has been very positive, been the response rate from OLX users. If I think about the reactions we have been getting this year versus last year, frankly, it has been 360 degrees turn around.
We have to do that again by focusing on trust and safety. We are doing everything possible to keep the site safe for the Nigerian people, prioritizing those elements that are peculiar to us.
OLX’s View About The market
We are positioned for success. We are long term investors, not for quick wins. We are here to play, stay and win.
E-Commerce Platforms and Cybersecurity
During the year, OLX in collaboration with MOMO and other stakeholders’ oraganised a session where issues on e-commerce space in Nigeria and the cyber related security issues were extensively discussed.
Part of the event was to showcase some of the technology and human elements we have deployed to protect our users on the website, including physical verifications. We have close to 160 people in field in Lagos, who physically verify items.
That has worked very successfully. We have changed the OLX platform; it looks very different now. During the process of changing the platform, we integrated some security apparatuses that allow us to dictate fraud related postings.
Corporate Social Responsibility
We engaged in some CSR programmes during the year and they are now not a sort of one-off thing. CSR is a continuous activity for us.
We engaged in OLX-Gives-Back campaign to support the School for the Blind and other charitable organisations.
This December, we supported a campaign called ‘Fit Yaba’ and the idea was to race consciousness around health and reducing illnesses. We supported the organization in collaboration with the Co-Creation (CC-Hub) and others.
Predictions for 2016
We expect to have our best year ever in the country in 2016. Every year has been interesting and exciting, and we have learnt a lot, but believe 2016 is our year of new growths, developments, and more successes.
On general perspective, there are three different dimensions to consider. First, change of perception around trust and safety of the classified e-commerce model. Secondly, there will be more players in the field, which will help to educate users, so that an average Nigerian will be educated on how to trade safely. We also expect growth to happen in a very big way. Once users are aware on how to simply use OLX, we expect the adoption to increase.
We have seen this trend in verity of technology platforms. When the mobile phone was introduced in Nigeria, it was from a very small base.
The Phones, SIM cards were very expensive, but currently, we have about 155 million mobile subscribers. That is phenomenal growth and due to the power of perception.
Once Nigerians understand how technology works, see the real value and how it impacts their lives, Nigerians are fast adapters. We expect the same with online classified ad as well. We have seen this happen with the messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook. The rate at which they have grown and successful in Nigeria, again, speaks to the fact that once a products creates value, Nigerians will definitely come on board.
I must say that 2015 has been a great and fantastic year. We appreciate our numerous users for their continuous support and feedbacks and we look forward to a more exciting year in 2016