Have digital classifieds replaced newspaper classified yet? No. But they will, soon. It's because India’s online classified industry is about Rs 11 billion and is expected to grow to Rs 31 billion by 2016, according to an Edelweiss report. And nobody knows this better than Sulekha.com.
With over 200 categories like coaching, home and office service, entertainment, among others, it is the Craigslist of India, for consumers to find everything they need. Its CEO, Satya Prabhakar, has come a long way from being a first mover in the online classified business to seeing new players enter the now crowded marketplace. The company has recently received Rs 175 crore in funding and is looking to expand the platform and invest in technology and branding.But the next gen of Internet—the app-only model is making its presence felt in the dot com businesses. We spoke to CEO Prabhakar about how he's coping with competition, the advent of digitization and app-only platform, and has still managed to remain relevant for local businesses and users.
You have been in this business since 2006. How have you managed to beat the competition and stay relevant?
It was the year 2007 when we launched in India. In the same year, after we received funding from Northwest Venture Partners, there were 40 local services companies which received various funding for their ventures. There were some of them who conquered the business aspect of the equation. They were able to scale in terms of geographical spread, and add new customers. But as times changed and businesses moved away from the yellow pages paradigm, they weren't able to transpose their businesses online successfully. In short, they couldn't cross the chasm.
Around the same time, a number of digital start-ups were born. They, however, succeeded in capturing the user base, but not local businesses. If you look at the local classified business, every category is a market place by itself. Therefore, you need to create a balance of users and customers in every city category. That's the challenge of local service opportunity. That's why some businesses find it so difficult to exist.
At Sulekha, we succeeded in capturing a mix of both–local businesses and users. And we seek to improve user experience on users and customers.
What has been the role of technology in your success?
Technology is at the heart of what we do. Every day, we get 30,000 requests from users, and every user need is different from the other. Therefore, it’s not a one man’s job be able to match the need in real time and get the right business to connect with the user in a minute. We use analytics in order to capture user needs and connect them to relevant businesses.
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