Lola Masha is the country manager, OLX Nigeria, the leading online classifieds player in the country. Lola Masha joined OLX Nigeria in February 2014 with the goal of building a world-class online classifieds business that stands out from its competition.
Lola, holds a PhD in Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. She 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 shares her passion about the e-commerce space in Nigeria, discussing OLX’s ambition for growth in the market.
The Concept: OLX
OLX is the number one online classifieds site in Nigeria and in some markets globally. It is a vibrant platform for buyers to meet sellers to trade. We are an online marketplace operating in 40 countries in the world. We have about 200 Million monthly active users globally.
The Place of OLX in Nigeria’s e-Commerce Market
We are replicating our global achievements in Nigeria. Today, OLX is the leading online classifieds site in Nigeria by a significant margin. We have over 120,000 ads currently live on our platform across different categories such as vehicles, mobile phones, electronics, real estate that users have posted to sell to other potential buyers.
The Motivation behind Users’ Adoption of the OLX Platform
Trade is a universal need and it has happened for generations. What we do differently to facilitate trade is to provide a rich platform and excellent customer support to guide our users through the process.
At the end of the day, success is defined on the platform as being able to sell or buy a particular product. We continuously optimize our platform to ensure that our users are successful.
Challenges of Grooming/Expanding E-Commerce Platforms in Nigeria
The most important priority for us here in Nigeria is trust and safety. We need to ensure that our users feel safe and secure when they use the OLX platform.
When they feel secure, they are likely to return for more transactions. We are also doing several things to achieve trust through customer support; we review all ads posted on OLX to ensure they meet our safety criteria and requirements.
We are constantly ensuring that the ads that go live on the site are high quality ones round the clock.
Secondly, we educate our users on how to trade safely by providing safety tips on all our social media platforms. We also communicate safety tips through marketing campaigns; TV and radio commercials, radio shows and partnerships with media influencers to help educate the public.
As long as users follow our safety tips, we can assure them that they will have a safe and wonderful experience on our platform.
Some of the key safety tips are: never pay in advance; inspect the item carefully before making a purchase, meet in a public place to make the exchange and partner with us by reporting fraudulent users using the report button on the site, call or email. Simply, OLX is an online representative of what happens offline.
The same way when you go to buy a used car you first test-drive it, you get a mechanic to inspect its engine and other sensitive parts or when you buy a TV from a friend you test it to make sure it works. Users who currently follow all the necessary precautions offline, should replicate them when they use OLX.
The Alleged Nanny Employed Through OLX
What the nanny incident indicates and what became very clear to us is that Nigerians do not yet understand the difference between the online classifieds model and the e-tail model.
It also implies that we need to intensify efforts on user education, particularly on the online classifieds model, our business approach and the value the platform offers.
If this were to have happened in the United States or the United Kingdom, it would not be news, because people understand the classifieds model or if a driver was recruited via a traditional newspaper classified section and he steals, it wouldn’t make the news either.
The Foreign Investors’ Domination of Nigeria e-Commerce Space
It is never easy to build a flourishing e-commerce platform, but there are successful stories of Nigerian entrepreneurs building businesses from the ground up to enviable heights. I do not see foreign investments as a negative trend rather it is money coming into the country.
What is important is that Nigerians are able to leverage it to improve the economy that includes, creating jobs, building a stronger logistics sector, e-payment and other services required in the ecommerce eco system.
E-commerce is here to stay and any economy that values it does everything possible to protect the sector.
I think users see value in the convenience, the variety of products and access it has provided. It is a positive platform for the country and important that it continues to contribute to the economic growth of the country.
We are fully open and in support of working with the regulators to ensure the ecommerce industry grows. It is in our interest to partner with the relevant stakeholders; the regulators, government agencies, competitors and other service providers. We must work together to make e-commerce a viable and sustainable industry in Nigeria.
Differentiating Electronic and Traditional Commerce Models
For online classifieds, one of the advantages is the access to a wide variety of goods and services conveniently.
The information you get using online classifieds compared to print classifieds is a richer set of features. If you are going to sell your car via the newspaper classifieds section, of course it wouldn’t be on the front-page but online, you can add richer content like colored pictures, detailed descriptions and so on.
OLX Acquisitions in Nigeria
Yes, the acquisition of our competition shows that Nigeria is a priority market for us. OLX is committed to the market; we are here to stay and thrive.
If that means acquiring our competition, we are fully on ground to do so. It also speaks about the culture at OLX, we move very fast in getting things done to be successful.
Broadband and e-Commerce Growth in Nigeria
There has been a lot of progress in the last five years, which includes scaling up internet penetration in the country. I think at the moment the penetration rate stands at 38%, whereas it was less than 10% a few years ago.
However, we still have a lot of work to do in this sector. We recently partnered with MTN on the MTN APPtitude campaign to provide users the opportunity to download the OLX app free of data charges. This is an added advantage to our users, because we know data is still expensive in the market.
OLX’s Market Share Target
Our immediate target is to enhance consumer trade. Although we are leading the classifieds site in Nigeria, the market is still quite immature. Our ambitions are to work with other stakeholders and lead the way to successfully grow the e-commerce space in Nigeria. With continued focus on delighting the Nigerian users, it is clear that OLX will continue to dominate the online classifieds space in Nigeria and across Sub-Saharan Africa.