Building in silence: CEO Gbenro Dara speaks on Olist’s growth
In 2019, when Opera introduced OList it was with a rather silent launch. Compared to other product lines like Opay or Oride, there was no press release announcing the launch of OList, just a mention in its financial statement.
OList is a marketplace that connects buyers and sellers to opportunities. It’s part of Opera’s strategy to expand its offerings to include online marketing services. The launch of OList came after the roll-out of services such as Opera Ads, Opera’s advertising platform, and OLeads, its platform for creating a customizable website.
In a conversation with TechCabal, Dara Gbenro, CEO of OList talks about OList’s journey and significant milestones.
Before joining Opera in September 2019, Gbenro served as the CEO of Cheki.com.ng, an online marketplace for cars, for two years. He was responsible for the company’s turnaround till it was acquired.
Prior to that, he was the country manager of Efritin in Nigeria, an online marketplace and classified ads website, which was later shut down in 2017. He’s also had stints at Hotels.ng and was a member of the founding team of Jumia Nigeria.
What’s driving OList’s growth
Ranked as one of the most visited classified sites in Nigeria, OList has risen up the ranks really fast. According to Gbenro, the company has more than one million seller accounts. Its monthly site traffic averages at four million users, with the highest record to date being 8.7 million sessions.
Gbenro attributes OList’s rapid growth to leveraging Opera’s large user base.
“You haven’t seen our ads anywhere because we’re a very efficient business. We’re getting things done and making progress quietly,” he said.
“We do not want to make noise, especially from learnings in the last couple of years from Opay. Personally, I like to do the work as opposed to talk about the work.”
Gbenro’s influence on the business
With Gbenro’s vast experience in the classified ads space, OList has been able to focus on building as fast as possible and improving its user experience.
“My experience in the classified space makes it easy for us to make quick decisions, as opposed to learning from scratch. This serves as a competitive advantage for the business.”
One other thing that has facilitated OList’s growth is its multiple partnerships, which also improve the quality of listings on OList.
Gbenro hinted that there are other partnerships in the works, which will be made public in the coming months.
“That’s why you don’t see much of us on Google ads or in the press because there’s a lot of stuff already going on,” he said.
Dealing with merchants selling fake goods
A major challenge that marketplaces face around the world is the proliferation of fake goods and scams. It’s a common problem that OList isn’t exempt from but somehow the company has been able to handle it well.
“It’s pretty much supply and demand. Buyers want quality goods. So it’s about engaging the sellers, it’s about looking for more quality inventory. The more quality inventory that you have on your platform, the less of these incidences that you will find.”
Referring to its recent partnership with Cars45 – Nigeria’s leading automotive trading platform, Gbenro said it ensures they have access to pre-inspected vehicles, with appropriate verifiable documents. This is one way they combat this problem. They take different approaches for different product segments.
“For any classified ad business, it’s a constant struggle. We have many internal quality control mechanisms. We have a quality control team doing all they can to ensure that they’re improving the quality of sellers and inventory on the platform. I think we’re doing everything within our best to improve that,” he said.
Multiple revenue streams and profitability
OList users can post as many as five ads for free, after which they have to pay for additional posts. This is typical for companies in the classified ad business space, as they generate income via advertisements, but OList is constantly looking to unlock other avenues.
“Beyond typical advertising we’ve got partnerships with multiple brands in sectors like insurance, banking and FMCG, driving traffic to them”
“We have multiple revenue models in different verticals. For example, we have a couple of properties in real estate (not only co-living properties), that we manage and we make money off. That’s one revenue model that we don’t talk about much.”
Ranking these sources of multiple income sources, Gbenro said Real estate and Cars are the two largest categories in terms of volume opportunity and market potential.https://techcabal.com/2019/11/14/the-unfulfilled-promise-of-digital-real-estate-services-in-lagos/embed/#?secret=CWa0ynnFyp
“It’s more about the opportunity, as opposed to how much we’re making for me right now. We’re not making any significant money compared to the opportunity that exists.”
The conversation ended with me asking if OList is profitable.
“We’re a very efficient business, we have our mind on our profitability,”
How long will this take?
“Time will tell,” he replied.