Is It Game Over Yet For Online Classifieds In Kenya?
I did a blog post back in 2009 about what was then a very nascent market for online classifieds in Kenya. That was five years ago! How time flies. Since then, everything has changed. A good number of sites from back then have disappeared. A good number of global players have ‘checked-in’ to Kenya with massive resources and solid market entry strategies. It seems everyone wants a piece of the pie. It certainly feels like game over but lets check this out in more detail?
Assessing the market size
Looking at Kenya’s market for online classifieds circa 2014 is an interesting exercise. It seems that all the major players are globally affiliated? They are buying massive amounts of online and offline media for market visibility and by extension marketshare. There is a sense that its actually working as many people are now buying and selling online in droves via online classifieds. Personally, I have offloaded stuff and bought stuff for years. However, fraud is a growing problem and many have been conned, sadly. However, there is net gain and people are realising the benefits outweigh the risks.
Who are the major players?
They are not many but they are increasingly dominant. The big kahuna of them all seems to OLX Kenya at this juncture. OLX, formerly Dealfish in Kenya is a business I ran back in 2010 and 2011 for Naspers. It has grown leaps and bounds. For me, its top of mind when I think of a ‘kila kitu’ (meaning ‘everything’ in Kiswahili) classifieds service in Kenya, whether its cars, jobs, houses, mobile devices, etc etc. They are spending loads to build market awareness and uptake. Its clearly a digital land grab of sorts and they have the biggest spade.
Next up has to be Cheki. Cheki has been in Kenya for as long as OLX. Its focus is on cars and therefore its kind of hard to gauge it as a direct competitor to OLX? At the same time, Cheki is part of a broader stable of online classifieds at One Africa Media which like Naspers has Pan-African interests. BrighterMonday for jobs and BuyRentKenya for real estate are also popular online classifieds that they run.
PigiaMe probably comes in third as part of Ringier a global media business. PigiaMe has probably been around longer than any of the above but has clearly yielded a lot of ground as OLX and Cheki took off. Its hard to tell how they are doing given that like OLX they do ‘kila kitu’ but are not quite as visible or as well known as either of these competitors at the moment. However, their sister daily deals site Rupu seems to be getting all the love in terms of marketing spend at this juncture with online and offline ads all over the place in Kenya.
The fourth online classifieds site I can think of that has some kind of momentum given that its the newest of all of them is Lamudi. Lamudi is an online classifieds site for real estate in Kenya and is also part of Africa Internet Holdings which is in turn backed by a consortia that includes the Internet behemoth Rocket Internet. Jumia which is a sister brand to Lamudi is arguably Kenya’s biggest e-commerce player at the moment. Lamudi is a global brand like OLX and it could edge out BuyRentKenya in the real estate category in time. In addition, Carmudi, a sister online classifieds brand for cars just launched in Tanzania and its inevitable they will go head to head with Cheki in Kenya soon.
Is It game over yet for online classifieds in Kenya?
The truth be said its starting to feel like the online classifieds space in Kenya is being carved up by a handful of major international online classifieds players. However, to be fair, there are a few local players like Nation Media’s N-Soko which just does not seem to have held its ground against the previously mentioned online classifieds. I am convinced that in a few years time this could end up being a winner take all scenario and especially OLX looks the most likely to take the ‘kila kitu’ category for online classifieds.
I think Carmudi and Cheki are going to duke it out big time in the next couple years as will BuyRentKenya and Lamudi. I also envisage ‘niche’ players coming into the market who will have laser focus on categories that hitherto are ‘drowned’ under the most popular categories. However, as the Internet has shown time and again, there is no such thing as a mature market and especially in a nascent online classifieds market like Kenya, any or all of these online classifieds businesses could be taken out by a disruptive and scrapy market entrant. Only time will tell. Its certainly not yet game over!