Online Classified Market In Pakistan


Online Classified Market In PakistanPakistan has traditionally always been a nation with strong social support systems rather than institutions. Even for things as simple as schooling or buying a house, we seek after the opinions and recommendations of our own and extended family and friend networks rather than depending on external reviews or peers.

Over the last few years however this system has seen a gradual shift especially in the upper income segments. As technology has permeated into our lifestyle, the increased exposure and information flows has resulted in making judgements based more on the recommendations of strangers and experts than just existing peers. The increase in more and more people shifting to nuclear families as well just amplifies this trend further. To cater to this sophisticated audience, a growing plethora of classified advertisements sites are springing up in the anticipation of this growing market of the future.

Globally a $100 billion business, Classified sites are the new form of how consumers and businesses or more appropriately sellers and buyers find each other. Whether individuals or businesses are looking for a used car (pakwheels.com), a new employee (rozee.pk), a place to sell their mobile (hafeezcentre.pk) buy a plot for investment or their new home (zameen.com), or even find a partner (shaadi.com), the first stop is increasingly becoming the Internet to sites such as these and more. The appeal lies in the convenience and ease of use such sites provide with powerful search capabilities, more personalized “push” services such as automatic ad alerts, more timely and up-to-date listings and features such as photos, video, and sound clips in online ads. Best of all they are FREE!

In some aspects, the evolution of the online classifieds in Pakistan is unique from its global counter-parts. Pakistan has seen the rise of vertical sites i.e. specializing in one area such as jobs, real estate and matrimonial first unlike say US where the first and still biggest classifieds site is Craigslist, a horizontal site specializing in many categories simultaneously. Secondly, unlike the west, where online classifieds have taken business away from newspapers, online classifieds in Pakistan have grown the overall market. During this time even the print classifieds have grown substantially. This is comparable to our telecom markets where the fixed lines though have been growing gradually, whilst the mobile market has shot through the roof improving tele-density significantly. The future however is mobile and similarly, the online classifieds industry will ultimately cross the print classifieds through the sheer reach, flexibility, cost effectiveness and ease of use for both advertisers and searchers.

Classified sites are the ideal web 2.0 business for a country like Pakistan for unlike Ecommerce models based businesses such as EBay or Amazon where the transactions are completed online, users never buy directly from these classified sites thus our limited infrastructure and payment gateways do not restrict the growth of these online business. Instead, users to these sites use the service to look for best offers and get in touch, while transactions are conducted in person or by phone. The sites benefit from advertising revenue and some paid listings for ‘Featured’ ads. Whilst numbers of the size of the market and revenues are harder to come by, leading the traffic race is OLX with 2.2 million unique users every month in Pakistan. Local sites such as Pakwheels, which deal mainly with second hand cars, claim 15 Million Page views in a month and 150,000 registered users. Zameen.com claims over 180,000 unique monthly visitors and 10,000 site listings a month.
“The market is interesting because of the potential – Pakistan is a huge market in terms of sheer numbers There are roughly 20M Internet users in Pakistan today, and we believe that this number will grow substantially over the next decade. So there’s definitely a big potential in the Pakistani Internet market. We believe that a free, quality classified site like dekho.com.pk is a service that most of the Internet users in Pakistan will want to use”, said Nils Hammar, CEO at dekho.com.pk, one of the pioneers of classified sites in Pakistan.

The launch of Dekho.com.pk since November last year is interesting because this is a horizontal site, much like OLX or Locanto in Pakistan and amongst a growing number of foreign horizontal sites investing in the future of this country and this market. Even with local players, also the market is shifting from vertical category sites to horizontal category sites. Even the players who were earlier in one category have launched other verticals or their own horizontal sites e.g. Pakwheels have launched naitazi.com and tringtring.com, verticals for general goods and mobile phones in Pakistan.

The trends and the factors governing classified ads markets support their assumptions. There is a substantially large numbers of micro and small entrepreneurs who are increasingly looking at advertising options that are free or low cost to market their businesses, services or products online. Online classifieds provide them with a local as well as a national reach and like we mentioned it’s free. A site like dekho.com.pk already claims 50,000 listings in a span of few months.

Classifieds online is definitely evolving but it needs a critical mass. Pakistan’s online industry is in the nascent stages. The overall internet population in Pakistan is limited. Even though it is said to be around 20 million, a person accessing Internet at least weekly is not more than 5-8 million (estimated). Out of this, people looking for search based information would be 2-3 million. This is not a critical mass when compared to US or other developed markets. Secondly, there is a problem of information hoarding e.g. the real estate brokers thrive on their knowledge of whose buying and whose selling and would not part from this information easily. However even with these challenges, the number of classified listings and the audiences would increase substantially in the next 3-5 years because of two things:

1. Pakistan is an emerging market growth with both GDP per capita and online media consumption growing at a good pace. The increasing salaries, more disposable income (many times due to both partners working), increased choice of goods has ensured that users are changing their laptops, PCs and cars faster than before. 50% of mobile especially gets changed within 6 months of purchase. These trends are resulting in a spurt in online listings. People are selling everything – right from washing machines to laptops and even air conditioners. Currently the household in Pakistan which wants to sell items doesn’t have any option offline except the people they know. Hence, online classifieds sites are providing these solutions.

2. Sellers are not online, while buyers are all over the Internet. How many apartment landlords are willing to put up their rental ads on a website? Infact how many landlords are Internet savvy in the first place? However as awareness about online classifieds increase, this will change and more people will join in the marketplace. Online classifieds currently stand to become the trade portals of all C2C transactions in Pakistan and fill in the huge gap between buyer knowledge and sellers disadvantage.

The future for these markets look bright. Internet penetration in Pakistan has been constrained because of broadband and PC penetration where as Mobile penetration has been explosive. People are beginning to realize the ease of access of Internet through their mobiles and in many cases they are having their first exposure to internet through a mobile handset. Online classifieds on Mobile are gradually gaining traction and with the rapidly growing mobile internet users, it could become the largest chunk soon.

“A great mobile service is a must as the Internet usage goes mainstream. We have a mobile site today on dekho.com.pk/m that is being used by all kind of mobile devices. As the market grows we will add more options for mobile users. The future looks promising. We have a lot of belief in Pakistan and the Pakistani Internet market and we want to be a part of the progress as the market grows. So far, the response we’ve had from our users has been great, so I really believe dekho.com.pk will bring value to the Pakistani market”, said Hammar.

One thing is for sure, no matter how the classifieds market will look like in the future, more Internet users mean better services being developed, and better services in turn attract more Internet users. Hopefully we’re in the beginning of this positive spiral where it’s hard to imagine 5 years from now a better way to sell our cars, buy our houses or even find our partners for life.

Original Post: http://auroramag.wordpress.com/2012/06/19/classified-and-online/

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KungFu Panda – Awesome Marketing Lesson


Po: Ooh, so um, I should… stop talking?
Shifu: If you can.

Brand management in the traditional marketing world was a top down, internally focused, political and money based approach. Now, due to the elimination of production & distribution costs, technology is allowing the growth of communities on a massive scale and this increased fragmentation of the consumer is governing that a new order of marketing take shape.

Marketers in Pakistan however are unwilling to risk the plunge of allowing consumers to control their communication messages. Despite the growing frequency of desperation of brands using the traditional approaches, to the extent of even breaking their role as good corporate citizens of the country (as this answer to the recent comment on Engro Pakistan using public property such as ‘Unity Round About” in Quetta ‘ (an act of Forced Marketing) which was posted on Marketing 360’, a Yahoo! group shows:

“…Your ethical concerns are true but in these times firms are desperate in breaking the clutter and will exploit any opportunity they get. Soon you may see walls being painted with advertisements by these big groups. In Karachi I have seen Pepsi painting on walls giving their owners a meager monthly rental…” – Munawar.)
marketers are still trying the push approach towards consumers, insisting on increasing the advertising budgets rather than innovating in new approaches. The way to increase Brand Scores on ‘Attribute A’ is still more ‘Share of Voice’.

Yet increasingly the consumer in Pakistan is becoming ‘Consistently Connected’ (35 Million + Mobile Users and 21 Million Internet Users (Source: International Social Media Research Wave 3)) and the increasingly fragmentation of the consumer due to the 83+ channels and 12+ radio stations has resulted in the fact that the one message fit all is going to die soon, if it’s not already dead.

Marketers take a note out of the Kungfu Panda Movie by Dream Works released in 2008. Oogway’s lesson to Shifu is very applicable to the marketing world of now.

Kungfu Panda
Shifu & Oogway

Oogway: My friend, the panda will never fulfill his destiny, nor you yours until you let go of the illusion of control.
Shifu: Illusion?
Oogway: Yes.
[points at peach tree]
Oogway: Look at this tree, Shifu: I cannot make it blossom when it suits me nor make it bear fruit before its time.
Shifu: But there are things we *can* control: I can control when the fruit will fall, I can control where to plant the seed: that is no illusion, Master!
Oogway: Ah, yes. But no matter what you do, that seed will grow to be a peach tree. You may wish for an apple or an orange, but you will get a peach.
Shifu: But a peach cannot defeat Tai Lung!
Oogway: Maybe it can, if you are willing to guide, to nurture it, to believe in it.
Shifu: But how? How? I need your help, master.
Oogway: No, you just need to believe. Promise me, Shifu, promise me you will believe.

Yes! objectives vary, but increasingly the way to reach the Pakistani consumers (esp. for brand building) now is through non-traditional media. A combination of Activations & Digital can  [perhaps] be more expensive, but does offer real & measured results. Why should advertising money be wasted on e.g. a moneyed individual being communicated to about a third-tier product when other more focused alternatives are available. Alternatively, Facebook Pakistan has 500,000+ of the most moneyed class of the country, shouldn’t the local marketers try to connect to them about what they want and value especially since this class doesn’t indulge as much in traditional media as the other classes of this country.

This is increasingly becoming the new marketing reality and the way forward to leverage and tap into the zeitgeist will be to create communities around your brands. One way could be to appeal to the passionistas, the people who score high on NPS (Net Promoter Scores).

This is not a new philosophy. Just a less understood one. Seth Godin In His Book ‘Tribe Management’ has been emphasizing on the same philosophy for years now:

It starts with permission, the understanding that the real asset most organizations can build isn’t an amorphous brand but is in fact the privilege of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who want to get them.

It adds to that the fact that what people really want is the ability to connect to each other, not to companies. So the permission is used to build a tribe, to build people who want to hear from the company because it helps them connect, it helps them find each other, it gives them a story to tell and something to talk about.

But this is not the only lesson to be learnt. Don’t forget the most basic lesson of them all:
Po: [breathing heavily] I know you’re trying to be all mystical and Kung Fu-ey, but could you tell me where we’re going?

Kungfu Panda
Kungfu Panda

Remember, one often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it.

Go On! Prepare For Marketing Awesomeness!